Background check into next Cincinnati police chief reveals past with ups and downs

CINCINNATI -- A background check into the next police chief of Cincinnati has revealed a past filled with both ups and downs.

Over a 26-year period, Jeffrey Blackwell went from a Columbus parking-ticket writer to a veteran of the Columbus Police Department. And on Friday, he was chosen as Cincinnati's next top cop.

But throughout his journey to becoming the head of Cincinnati's police force, Blackwell was met with both praise and criticism.

Last year, Blackwell lost a bid for the chief of police job in Columbus.

During that time, the Columbus Dispatch requested personnel, internal-affairs and other public records on Blackwell.

The evaluation revealed that despite making headlines as a ticket writer by chasing down a bank robber and tackling him in 1987, Columbus police didn’t want to hire Blackwell.

According to the Dispatch’s investigation, Blackwell admitted in an interview before becoming a cop that he experimented with cocaine twice, an automatic disqualifier.

The Dispatch reports that he had been fired from three restaurants, one of them after he threatened his manager. And creditors were trying to collect more than $4,000 from him, the report states.

Blackwell appealed and the Columbus Civil Service Commission returned him to the division’s hiring list despite the objections of the police chief and the safety director, according to the Dispatch.

From there, he excelled.

In 1989, a homicide sergeant credited him as “a very knowledgeable, street-smart officer” who “was able to make contacts and open doors of information” during an investigation, the Dispatch reports. In 1992, he was commended for using his neighborhood contacts to help solve five cold-case homicides.

During his 26-year career, Blackwell posted the highest score on exams for sergeant, lieutenant, commander and deputy chief, winning a promotion each time.

The Dispatch reports that his superiors commended his work in his annual evaluations, and residents wrote letters thanking him for his help on everything from security at sports events to arresting burglary and auto-theft suspects.

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.

Blackwell was nominated for the Mayor’s Award of Excellence in 2005 for his work as chairman of the photo red light committee. His resume states he was "responsible for" adopting and implementing a "city-wide traffic camera project" at more than 40 intersections in Columbus.

But in 2011, WBNS Channel 10 in Columbus reported that Blackwell was investigated for wearing his police uniform in court while testifying on a personal matter, and was also accused of lying on the stand about whether he had permission from his chief to wear the uniform.

It's unclear if Blackwell was disciplined after this investigation.

Blackwell will begin his tenure in Cincinnati on 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.

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