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Veteran Police Officer Eliot Isaac Is Cincinnati's New Police Chief

Ann Thompson
Left to right: Vice Mayor David Mann, Council member Christopher Smitherman, Police Chief Eliot Isaac, Mayor John Cranley (behind Isaac) and City Manager Harry Black.

Eliot Isaac, a long-time police veteran who has been interim chief for nearly three months, is Cincinnati’s new police chief.

In city council chambers at Cincinnati City Hall Thursday morning, City Manager Harry Black made official what most in the department and city hall have believed for months would happen – he appointed Isaac the city’s new police chief.

Black said he never considered any outside candidates for the job.

Isaac told the crowd in council chambers, made of many of his colleagues and community leaders, that he is humbled and honored by the appointment; and plans to carry on the progress he believes he has made in the past few months dealing with a department rife with poor morale.

“I’ve spent the last 27 years in service to this city,’’ Isaac said. “What is unique about city is its resilience. We have come through so much in the past 15 years since the civil unrest.

“The people of this city are so much engaged in solving the problems we face,’’ Isaac said.

The formal appointment came one day after Cincinnati City Council, on a 5-4 vote, changed the pay scale for the position of police chief from a maximum of about $140,000 a year to $165,000.

Black had told council earlier this week that the lower pay scale could limit his ability to name a new police chief.

Isaac will be making $162,000 a year, city spokesman Rocky Merz said.  

Mayor John Cranley, Vice Mayor David Mann, and Council Member Christopher Smitherman, who chairs council’s law and public safety committee, stood by Isaac’s side when Black made the announcement.

Isaac said that he has been “working very hard energizing the department.” The new chief appears to have the support of the rank-and-file of the police department, including the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Sentinels, which represents African-American officers.

He said his agenda will be three-fold – addressing violent crime in the community, continuing to work with community leaders, and to build a “data-driven department” that sets goals for achievement.

Isaac took over as interim chief in September when Black fired former chief Jeffrey Blackwell, saying the police department had no confidence in his leadership.

Isaac did praise his predecessor once at Thursday’s press conference, saying Blackwell had done an “excellent job” in engaging young people in the community; and promised he would continue the effort.

Cranley praised Black for the appointment of Isaac; and thanked the council members who voted on the pay ordinance Wednesday.

“We have been through a lot in this city over the last 15 years,’’ Cranley said.

Other cities around the country are experiencing the kind of civil unrest Cincinnati dealt with in the spring of 2001. Cincinnati, through its collaborative agreement, has improved police-community relations dramatically since then.

“We’re not perfect; and we know that,’’ Cranley said. “But every one of those cities looks to Cincinnati as a model.”

Cincinnati’s commitment to community policing and targeting violent crime, Cranley said, “is a change that didn’t happen overnight. But our police department has embraced it.”

Cranley said he agrees with Black’s decision to choose a chief from within the ranks.

“Inside election is not only the right decision, it is a message to the team at the police department,’’ Cranley said.

Isaac was executive assistant police chief prior to his appointment as interim chief. Before that, he served as a police captain. He has directed the department’s Criminal Investigations Section and, from 2007 to 2012, he was commander of District 4 in the central city.

Black has planned a series of roundtables with the community that will include Black, Cranley, and Isaac.

The first will involve “major stakeholders” and will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the Community Action Agency, 1740 Langdon Farm Rd., Bond Hill.

Each of Cincinnati’s five police districts will have a community roundtable:

-         District 1: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 11 at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center, 1715 Republic St.

-         District 2: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 at Evanston Recreation Center, 3204 Woodburn Ave.

-         District 3: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Feb. 1, Westwood Town Hall, 3017 Harrison Ave.

-         District 4: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Feb. 8, Bond Hill Community Center, 1501 Elizabeth Place.

-         District 5: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 22, College Hill Community Center, 5545 Belmont Ave.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.
Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.