CINCINNATI -- City officials 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.
On Saturday, Blackwell met with 9 On Your Side's Jason Law for a one-on-one interview at Rosemore Middle School in Whitehall, where Blackwell was coaching youth basketball with his 14-year-old son.
WCPO: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DIFFERENCES YOU'VE NOTICED BETWEEN CINCINNATI AND COLUMBUS?
JEFF BLACKWELL: Columbus is larger and much more spread out. Cincinnati is more urban, more concentrated. It requires a different type of policing with an urban environment like that. It requires a lot more intelligence-led policing. More predictive, analytical policing. But it also requires the community's support. No police department can be successful if the community does not trust them and support them. It's my job to make that grow.
YOU HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS IMPLEMENTING RED LIGHT CAMERAS IN COLUMBUS.
JB: Right, and we have close to 50 intersections now [with the traffic cameras.] I will admit it's a controversial program. Some municipalities have outlawed the use of that technology. But I said then, in my first meeting with citizen groups it is about traffic safety. It is not about the generation of revenue. It really is not. We have made tremendous strides in Columbus with high profile crash-accident locations. We've made them safer. Those cameras are a huge deterrent. We've made some money for the city. No doubt about that. There's no denying that. But the focus was not revenue. It was safety."
IS IT TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT THE IDEA OF MAYBE BRINGING THAT TO CINCINNATI?
JB: Well, I've already been told by several that that technology has been outlawed…in Hamilton County, so I'll move onto some other initiatives.
CRIME NUMBERS ARE ALWAYS GOING TO BE SCRUTINIZED AND AS CHIEF THEY'RE ALWAYS GOING TO FALL ON YOUR SHOULDERS. THIS YEAR VIOLENT CRIME HAS SPIKED. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO TACKLE THAT?
JB: My primary focus is going to be violent crime in Cincinnati…[The numbers of violent crime incidents] are up. They're up here in Columbus as well and I think they're up across the board a little. Our numbers here a little bit higher than Cincinnati's so I'm trying to keep things in perspective. To the Cincinnati folks, the numbers are unacceptable and so to me, being the new chief, they're unacceptable.
We can't police our way out of crime. It's impossible. You have to meet, collaborate and be collective in an approach to get rid of violent criminals. We will target them. I've had some success going after violent criminals. My word to them is, 'Get ready.'
YOU ARE A POLICE OFFICER BUT IN MANY WAYS, YOU'RE ALSO A POLITICIAN. HOW DO YOU BALANCE THAT OUT?
JB: Try to be less emotional. I've tried over the year, the past couple of years, to be less emotional about what I say. Sometimes I'm a type-A personality. I speak my mind sometimes a little too liberally, so I've learned--I've become more mature through that process, to really watch my words and choose them very carefully so that I'm not misunderstood.
IS MEDIA ATTENTION SOMETHING YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET USED TO?
JB: Not really. I believe the Chief should be a media friend. There's so many police executives here in Columbus--I'm sure in Cincinnati as well--that want nothing to do with you [the media]. They say, 'No comment,' and refer you to a PIO [Public Information Officer]. I'm a big advocate that police commanders and command staff should be the ones talking to the media, so we're not just giving a PIO a rehearsed statement that frankly the public sees as rehearsed. They see it as being disingenuous, and I'm going to change that. Our commanders in Cincinnati need to be talking to you when you have questions about crime.
HOW LONG DO YOU ALLOW YOURSELF WITH THE LEARNING CURVE?
JB: You know, I don't know. I'm a quick studier. I've been reading and preparing. Even this morning I've been reading publications from Cincinnati. I've got a pretty good background. I've got 26 years in this business and there's not much difference in Cincinnati. I've just got to get to know the teams. I've got to get to know the bad guys so we know who we're coming after and I'm ready to do it.
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