The Right to Read program, created by a Cincinnati police officer and approved by former Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, was a prong in Blackwell’s community-focused approach to crime fighting. It helped get him fired, he said, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Blackwell, who was dismissed last week by City Manager Harry Black, had been in the cross hairs of some at City Hall since his arrival in 2013. His focus on working with kids in the community has been hailed outside of Cincinnati, including the White House, as a model for departments nationwide. In his own backyard, it was dismissed by some as warm-and-fuzzy nonsense in a city that should be focused on the recent surge in shootings.
“I think it’s great having police officers attend community meetings, but it needs to be balanced with real police work,” said Pete Witte, a small business owner and West Side activist who’s been publicly supportive of Black and Mayor John Cranley. “It doesn’t get all the way to the heart of solving crime.” Blackwell had relented somewhat in recent weeks, agreeing to reassign some specialty officers from their community-focused beats to patrol the streets. But he largely held firm, telling the Enquirer before his firing that he believed wholeheartedly in the approach he was taking, even if others didn’t. “I’m going to walk my truth as a police chief and do the things that I think make this city the best city in the country,” he said. “It may take until after I’m gone for people to recognize the good things that we were doing.” Councilman Wendell Young – a former policeman – told The Enquirer that Blackwell never had the mayor and city manager’s support and was doomed to fail from the start.