• Mon. Jun 27th, 2022

By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

Interim City Manager John Curp, along with Mayor Aftab Pureval and Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, have announced Chief Isaac’s retirement date from the Cincinnati Police Department.

Chief Isaac’s final day will be March 1, and his final working day was February 18.

Mayor Aftab Pureval said, “We are incredibly grateful for Chief Isaac’s decades of service to the residents of Cincinnati. As police chief, he has provided compassionate and dedicated leadership, working daily to keep Cincinnati safe and secure. The search process for a new police chief began immediately when we took office, and I’m confident that a professional, effective process that prioritizes community engagement will result in the best possible leader for our Police Department.”

Chief Isaac said, “Serving the people of Cincinnati, alongside such a dedicated team of officers, has been the privilege of a lifetime. I’m grateful beyond words for the opportunity I have had. The mayor and the City Administration have been incredible partners during this transition process, and I’m fully confident that the search process for a new police chief will yield the right person for the job.”

The City Administration has narrowed its choice of consultants for the nationwide police chief search to two choices. The selected organization will work with the interim city manager to begin a national search that will involve extensive community engagement to determine the qualifications for candidates. Chief Isaac has agreed to continue to assist in the process and consult with the interim city manager as the search progresses. The interim city manager will announce an interim police chief in advance of Chief Isaac’s final working day.

Isaac, who has served as Cincinnati’s 15th police chief since his swearing in at the Freedom Center in December, 2015, is the sixth police chief since The Collaborative Agreement was struck between the Cincinnati Black United front (CBUF)  American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the City of Cincinnati, and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), on police/community relations signed in federal court March 2001, after 14 unarmed black men had been killed by the Cincinnati Police  and before the fatal shooting by Cincinnati police of the death by police of Timothy Thomas in 2001. He was also the third African American to become Cincinnati police chief.

“I am retiring after more than 33 years with the Cincinnati Police Department and serving a city which I am most proud of and that has come so far,” Isaac said in a recent appearance on “Woke,” a Zoom forum conducted by community activist, Cincinnati Black United Front Member and Project Manager and a member of the City Managers Advisory Group Iris Roley of cbufleadersfreeworld@gmail.com. “But we still have much to do in working with our partners. We need to keep in mind that we serve all citizens of Cincinnati.’’

Isaac said he grew up with an interest in law enforcement, with a cousin in another city in that field, and having had some negative encounters with police, such as being unnecessarily stopped by police. 

“I went through so many things young men today go through, but continued my interest in becoming a cop,” he said. When I was 21, I felt I should see policing from the inside out, and became a police recruit.”

His first 18 months as a police officer were spent in community work in District 4, which covered the Avondale and Bond Hill communities. He was then assigned to the West End area. 

“I realized we, as police officers, had to build good relationships with communities and the people we served. They are everything, for we did not know know about things we have today in policing,” Isaac said.

His next assignment was Downtown, where he spent 8 years, before being promoted to sergeant and going back to District 4. He was then assigned to the Investigations Division. That assignment provided him opportunities to learn more about how the police department operates, he said. 

“Then, in 1999, I saw a long list of Black men who died in police custody. I realized tension was growing in our city. Then came the death of Timothy Thomas, and the explosion in our city. 

The FBI came in. Beanbags were shot at protesters in the streets,’’ he said.

Then-Police Chief Thomas Streicher assigned Isaac to investigate the causes of the unrest. 

“I told him our officers were wrong,” he said. “I was told that was not the original perspective of the riot, but you are right. A large number of officers knew the use of force was wrong.”

The FBI had taken over the investigation. Officers began taking citizens’ complaints.

“We can talk about significant violence, but it comes back to how city, state and nation deals with the root causes, be it gun violence, drugs, or in other forms. But when you peel the onion down, the focus would be on all of those things that keep people in cycles (poverty and accompanying issues) where they cannot break out of. It is heart breaking in that 30 years ago these issues were the same. We must approach violence as public health crisis and put the research around this into practice. That will make a significant difference.

“The goal is to keep these young folks out of the system.” This is why “Problem Solving Using the Sara Process” is highly important, said Iris Roley, host of “Freedom Friday’s, policing in the Pandemic”, these conversations are held every Friday at 4pm on zoom and live on face book, due to the pandemic. 

Isaac was a captain in the department when the lawsuit requiring police reform was brought against the city by the Black United Front & the ACLU Of Ohio on behave of Cincinnati’s Black population.  and other parties in the 2001. The Citizen Complaint Authority (CCA) was created out of the Collaborative Agreement, it was created to do multiple things, The Citizens Complaint Authority (CCA) was created to hear citizen complaints against officers, make recommendations on policies/discipline and monitor data for disparities.  Streicher also tabbed Isaac to ensure the department complied with the tenants of the agreement. Working with CCA executive directors Pete Franz, Richard Glenn, and others, he said he has always been a big supporter of it. “The work of the CCA validates the work our officers are doing,” he said. 

The work between the parties involved under the collaboration allows various voices to be heard and to work thing out, so the city can move forward, he said.

Isaac said he sees society redefining what police should look like. “Policing is being redefined now, and communities have a right to say how they wants to be policed. “That involves fairness. Although there is a lot of tension in the process at times. It is a time of great collaboration and positive things being accomplished,’’ he added. 

When asked, by the host –about former chief Jeffrery Blackwell and Isaac’s role, Isaac said there is one thing he would have done differently during his career. That involved his role in the way he became chief in replacing his predecessor Jeffery Blackwell, who was fired by former City Manager Harry Black. “The way it happened was a horrible thing, painful. There was no tension between Chief Blackwell and me. People change position elsewhere, and it is not a public display. This happens to too many people here in Cincinnati. I plan to call him and chat. “

Could he (Isaac) have done anything different during the civil unrest in 2001 and 2020, Roley asked Isaac. “There are times when people have to vent, and you cannot take it personally. You must have an appreciation for real conversation between the parties when that takes place.’’ 

Isaac modeled his career after Cincinnati police legends Clarence Williams, Ron Twitty, and other officers he admired, he said. 

“I am proud of the work we do. “During my tenure as chief, we promoted five African American officers to captain, when there have been only 13 Black officers promoted to that rank in the history of department. Two women and two men have been appointed as assistant chiefs. We have taken the best of the federal consent decree reform mandates and built on those. However, we have to have a medium where Cincinnati Public Schools students can go into police and fire services.

On a personal note, Isaac said he cold not have lasted more than 30 years without his wife Kim being there to support him “every step of the way.” He had been on the department 2 years when they were married. “She is a University of Cincinnati graduate. She sees what we face, and she understands,” he noted.

Isaac says he plans to consult with other police departments during his retirement.

He says a replacement should be someone who values relationships and partnerships, and not someone looking to start over from ground zero, but looking to move forward from where we are. He added a police chief is strongest when has support of community.