CINCINNATI – Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said he felt “secure” in the face of a possible no-confidence vote by members of the police union, which experts said may be nothing more than a political move.
Kathy Harrell, president of Fraternal Order of Police Local 69, said Wednesday the union would hold a meeting Sept. 14 to vote over concerns about low morale and staffing.
Speaking to a reporter Thursday morning, Blackwell said he “didn’t know that the friction was like this here,” and that Harrell had never brought the issues to him.
“I feel good, I feel safe, I feel secure. I know I’ve done a good job,” Blackwell said. “I’m not going to buy into the negative media stuff that’s been put our there purposefully. I’m going to continue to come to work and do a good job every day.”
Votes of no confidence by police unions aren’t daily occurrences, but they’re not uncommon, either, according to Andrew Scott, president of the police and law enforcement consulting firm AJS Consulting.
Press reports indicate there have been numerous no-confidence votes by police unions in cities and towns across the country this year, including a highly-publicized no-confidence vote by the police union in Washington D.C. earlier this week.
The votes are sometimes used over legitimate reasons and sometimes used as a “political weapon,” Scott said. The union needs to be able to articulate the issues; otherwise they likely have no merit, he said.
“I think the public has a right to know what the chief is doing to cause this uproar,” Scott said.
Unions often use the no-confidence vote to apply pressure and influence negotiations, management policy or the removal of the chief, according to Police Chief Magazine.
“Although a no-confidence vote is a severe test of a chief’s leadership it is an event that the chief can survive,” according to the magazine.
If the majority of the union does vote no confidence for Blackwell, it doesn’t necessarily mean the chief will be out of a job. That decision ultimately lies with Blackwell and city leaders.
Earlier this year, Blackwell asked city officials to draft documents for a possible separation, but ultimately decided to stay in Cincinnati.
City Councilmember Yvette Simpson said in a press release it was “disheartening that the FOP is considering such a measure at a time our department and our chief is being held in such high regard nationally,” adding that morale or personnel issues should be directed to the mayor, administration or council.
“[Blackwell] is working with the resources we have given him and is doing the best job he can,” Simpson said.