Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, began as a Columbus, Ohio, officer in 1987, after nearly being rejected from the force for admitting he used cocaine twice within the year preceding his application, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. The one-time parking ticket writer, who grew up in a low-income Columbus neighborhood, didn't back down, fighting for his employment. He was hired and then shot up the Columbus ranks, gaining the best score on every promotional exam all the way to deputy chief before being passed over for chief in 2012.
A review of Blackwell's personnel file and interviews with people with whom he's worked paint a picture of a dedicated street cop who never forgot about the disadvantaged. Blackwell leaves behind a more traditional police department – still relatively authoritarian and reactive to crime – to lead Cincinnati's department, which was first forced to reform after race riots but has become widely respected as one of the nation’s more progressive and proactive departments for its community-oriented policing model. Blackwell will encourage new ways to engage the community – like focusing more intently on quality-of-life issues – and reaching urban youth. One of his first actions was to reverse part of his predecessor’s uniform policy – requiring officers to wear their hats during detail and traffic duties, an unpopular requirement among beat cops.