Cincinnati names Jeffrey Blackwell as new police chief

CINCINNATI – The city announced Friday that Columbus deputy police chief Jeffrey Blackwell will be Cincinnati's next top cop.

Blackwell is a 26-year veteran of the Columbus police department. He was one of three external candidates up for the job. Lt. Col. Paul Humphries was the only internal candidate selected as a finalist last week.

Blackwell will begin his tenure Sept. 30 with a salary of $132,000, according to the city. The city is working on his swearing in ceremony, expected within the next several weeks. Currently, the police department has about 1,300 employees and 966 sworn officers. Former police chief James Craig, who accepted the police chief job in his native Detroit in May, earned $143,000 per year, according to the city manager’s office.

Blackwell has served in patrol, traffic and cold case homicide divisions before he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1994. He was nominated for the Mayor’s Award of Excellence in 2005 for his work as chairman of the photo red light committee. “Red-light” cameras are at 20 intersections throughout Columbus.

He's served as deputy chief since 2009, currently overseeing the communication, technical services and support operations bureaus, according to his resume. He also possesses extensive training in emergency preparedness.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said Blackwell values community-oriented policing.

"Jeff understands that we have to work with the various communities we serve to build a culture of understanding and respect," Dohoney said in a prepared statement. "In particular, I have spoken to him about our need to work in partnership with other organizations to reach teen youth and young adults to move the needle on reducing crime in this community.  

“Mr. Blackwell is committed to building upon the foundation provided by the Collaborative Agreement and the MOA. He will engage the entire community as well as the staff of the department."

Since 2008, Blackwell has served as safety chair on the Columbus Youth Violence Prevention Advisory Board. Its primary focus is to serve as a think-tank advisory panel to reduce youth violence, according to his resume.

The goal of community-oriented policing is to bring the police and the public closer to identify and address crime issues. Instead of merely responding to emergency calls and arresting suspects, police officers work to ferret out the cause of crime and disorder, and attempt to creatively solve problems in assigned communities.

Humphries, who has led the department in the interim since Craig's departure, said he respects the city manager's decision.

"I look forward to serve as interim police chief until he arrives," Humphries told WCPO after the announcement Friday. "I look forward in assisting him as he transitions into the chief’s job. I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of city of Cincinnati."

Union Head Expresses Optimism

Fraternal Order of Police President Spc. Kathy Harrell said she was "a little surprised" Humphries was not selected for the job. Under Craig, Humphries and the FOP worked closely together.

"I thought they would have possibly gone with an (internal) candidate this time," Harrell told WCPO. "I supported Lt. Col. Humphries and I believe he would have done a great job."

Blackwell's hiring marks the second time the city has gone outside the police department for a new chief, the first being Craig. Harrell said it's not only a trend in Cincinnati, but nationwide.

"We have seen over the last two years while James Craig was here, a definite positive increase in officer morale," Harrell said. "There were some very good changes that were necessary that were overdue, and hopefully that this new chief will see that and be able to move forward with that."

Craig changed the officer uniforms from white to blue and changed the work schedule to four, 10-hour days per week.

"Member after member after member has been calling me saying 'What do you think, how think do think it’s going go to go, we’re not going to back to the old way of things are we?' And I don’t see that happening," she said.

Councilmembers Weigh In

City councilmembers P.G. Sittenfeld and Pamula Thomas both welcomed the hiring of Blackwell Friday.

"Manager Dohoney has a strong track record in making these selections, having previously brought us Chief Craig," Sittenfeld said in a prepared statement. " ... I hope he builds on the progress within the police department and plans to make this his home for many years to come.

"It's critically important that he be a chief for the whole city. We also must salute Interim Chief Paul Humphries for his commitment and service. He has been and will continue to be a great leader for our community."

Thomas said she is looking forward to seeing what Blackwell can do with the youth community, based on his previous experience.

"He understands the importance of working with numerous communities to build a safer culture here in Cincinnati," Thomas said. "He is what the community wants in a police chief, and I

am excited to see what he has in store for Cincinnati and the progress that he will undoubtedly make.”

WCPO.com and 9 On Your Side will update this story when more information becomes available.

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