I have followed the news regarding the incident in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th, 2014 when a man, Michael Brown, viciously attacked a Police Officer, Darren Wilson, who subsequently had to resort to deadly force in order to defend himself from life threatening violence. Notice how the preceding relates the basic facts of the story without bias. It provides the required information as to what happen without immediately drawing racial lines with regards to the criminal and the police officer. However, since it was not as sensational to report it in such a fashion, all media outlets had to report that Michael Brown, and unarmed black teen, was shot to death by white police officer Darren Wilson. As a result of this, many have come out of the woodwork and have presented themselves on the national stage as experts on such matters as racial relations, community relations, and community policing.
One such self-proclaimed expert is Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell. Since this incident Blackwell has been very busy traveling about, appearing on cable news shows, instructing classes in Ferguson, Missouri and surrounding areas, and sitting on numerous panels. One might wonder what credentials he possesses that he should be considered such an expert in these matters. The immediate answer is that the Cincinnati Police Department has been held up as a model of police reform following the civil disobedience, a.k.a. riots, in Cincinnati in 2001. The line drawn by many is that the Cincinnati Police Department is a national model, he is the Chief of Cincinnati, therefore he is the expert on the reform in Cincinnati brought about by the Department of Justice Memorandum of Agreement or the Collaborative Agreement. Nothing could be further from the truth
Blackwell was transplanted into the Cincinnati Police Department when he was hired as Police Chief on September 30th, 2013. Before that he had not spent one day as a member of the Cincinnati Police Department. For 26 years prior to that he was a member of the Division of Police in Columbus, Ohio. He did not spend one day of his life serving on the mean streets of Cincinnati during the riots nor was he anywhere around when the DOJ Memorandum of Agreement was being drafted or the Collaborative Agreement was being hammered out. Consequently, at best, he can only be considered as a hearsay witness when he presents The Cincinnati Police Department’s success story following the 2001 riots. He was not here, he has no firsthand knowledge of the violence or the aftermath. So, the question might be asked, if he is not the right man, then who is?
Currently in the service of the Cincinnati police Department are three Assistant Chief’s. All three were members of the Cincinnati Police Department during the 2001 riots. All three were in the trenches during the riots and all three were in situations that put them at risk as the result of their service to the citizens of the City of Cincinnati. Consequently, anyone of the three would be an expert witness and would be most qualified to speak about the riots using firsthand knowledge. Of the three, one was a Lieutenant and two were Captains. All three were involved to some extent with the formation of the DOJ MOA and/or the Collaborative Agreement. Blackwell was not a Cincinnati Police Officer during the riots. He was not on the streets during the violence and he was not at the table during follow-up work. Blackwell is the least qualified of the four and yet he is the man in the spotlight. I find an interesting parallel between this and when Blackwell was hired. Of the short list of candidates he was the least qualified and yet he got the job. I can’t help but wonder how many other times that has happened to him during career.
In conclusion I would like to say that I am a “silver lining” kind of guy. I always find it best to look for the silver lining in most disagreeable circumstances. This is not different. The silver lining here is that while the wrong man travels about the countryside being the “expert” the management of the Cincinnati Police Department is being left in the very capable hands of the three aforementioned Assistant Police Chiefs, Paul Humphries, James Whalen, and David Bailey. The citizens of Cincinnati are better off for it.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
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