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Black United Front on what they want from Cincinnati's next police chief

Chief Eliot Isaac talks about what's behind an October spike in violence in Cincinnati.
Bill Rinehart
Current Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac announced in June 2021 that he would retire within the next year.

When 33-year police veteran Elliot Isaac was appointed chief in 2015, the process was out of the ordinary. Isaac was selected after former Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was fired, forgoing public input.

Black United Front Co-Founder Iris Roley says it meant Isaac, who is a Black man, entered the job under unfair scrutiny and hostility.

"It should never have happened the way that it did," she said. "That hurt us, that hurt our reputation. It hurt the integrity, and it made Black people feel as though there's no level of respect. And we had a Black chief that was treated as if he wasn't the chief. And it was a very public dismissal (of Blackwell). And we should never be about that," she said.

As Isaac prepares to retire early next year, Roley said the Black United Front wants to make sure the community has a chance to have input in the selection of the next police chief. The group launched a survey online to gauge what work residents say is critical for the incoming chief to address. It will be available until Dec. 1.

Click here to take the survey

Whether the new chief is local or selected from a national search, Roley says it's essential the person understand the work that's been done for the past 20 years to try to make policing better, including the SARA model, which is a case-by-base decision-making model for officers.

"So we would want someone that's familiar with these types of processes that have been laid out; someone that understands citizen oversight; someone that can work with communities, specifically with communities that have been on the receiving end of unconstitutional policing; someone who understands the federal legislation that is still on the books here in the city of Cincinnati as it relates to policing and public safety," she said.

She says the BUF also wants to connect with the city to get some of the characteristics people say they want in the next police chief integrated into the job description. When the final three candidates are selected, she'd also like to see a public forum held so community members can ask the candidates questions.

"We've seen that done before and we would like to have that done here," she said. "These are some of the things that we've already put in place and have asked the city administration for."

She says adding community input is a two-way street where city officials can gather information about what people want from a police chief, and also take the opportunity to educate the public about what role the police chief plays in the city.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.