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So, will national group yank $1M in conferences?

Posted at 1:22 AM, Sep 10, 2015

CINCINNATI -- Although Jeffrey Blackwell was swiftly fired Wednesday, a 5,000-member group threatening to yank its conferences from town over the city's treatment of the now-former police chief is withholding judgment -- for now.

"My plan is to review the documents and, if we feel that [Blackwell's] termination was not for cause, again we are prepared to pull our conferences away from the city of Cincinnati," said Carlyle Holder, president of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice.

Carlyle sent a letter to Mayor John Cranley last week, saying the NABCJ wanted the city to let it review the so-called "climate assessment" of the Cincinnati Police Department under Blackwell's command before there was a final decision about him. Released Wednesday, that assessment found widespread morale issues -- on a scale of 1 to 10, morale was pegged at a 2 -- and lack of communication and effective leadership.

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NABCJ's two meetings here -- a state-level meeting in October 2016 and a national meeting in July 2017 -- were still on the books Wednesday evening, according to Julie Calvert, vice president of communication and strategic development with the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau.

But Holder said that could change soon. NABCJ's national board is asking the city for all documentation on the assessment and decision so it can make a fair decision. According to Holder, the two meetings would bring more than $1 million in revenue to Cincinnati.

IN-DEPTH: Black residents say ex-chief showed respect

As for his letter, Holder said there's been radio silence from Cincinnati city leaders.

"We extended an olive branch to work with the city, and obviously they have chosen to not do so," he said.

NABCJ also plans to talk "with other national organizations ... to be a unified voice in support of Chief Blackwell," Holder said. He declined to say which organizations may be involved.

The CPD climate assessment -- a human resources term for a top-to-bottom morale review -- came at the orders of City Manager Harry Black. In June, he insisted it wasn't a pretext to get rid of Blackwell, who'd twice brought up the subject of resigning.

"You know, I don't know how many more times I'm going to need to say this: Jeffrey Blackwell is the chief of police for the city of Cincinnati and will continue to be the chief of police of the city of Cincinnati. There is no interest, there is no intent, there is no thought of him not being the chief of police," Black said in early June.

Under the city's charter, nearly all city employees report to Black -- not the mayor or city council. It's also solely Black's decision as to whether to terminate the police chief, though, unlike many other department heads, there has to be a reason:

The police chief may be removed at any time by the city manager. After the police chief has served six months, he or she shall be subject to removal only for cause including incompetency, inefficiency, dishonesty, insubordination, unsatisfactory performance, any other failure of good behavior, any other acts of misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance in office, or conviction of any felony. If removed for cause the police chief may demand written charges and the right to be heard thereon before the city manager. Pending the completion of such hearing the city manager may suspend the police chief from office.

--Cincinnati City Charter, Article V, Section 5

Since 2013, four other city departments have undergone a climate assessment: Public Services, Human Resources, Recreation and the Emergency Communications Center. The directors of all but the Human Resources Department were replaced; the Recreation Department continues to search for a new permanent director.