- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - Leaders of Cincinnati’s police officers say they will support the interim replacement for the chief who was fired after two years on the job.

The president of the Sentinel Police Association, a group of black police officers that works against discrimination in hiring and policing practices, said the organization wants to help Eliot Isaac succeed. Isaac, an assistant chief and a Sentinel member, was appointed interim chief Wednesday after Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was fired.

City officials cited a toxic work environment and ineffective police leadership in their decision to oust Blackwell, a veteran Columbus police officer hired by a previous Cincinnati administration.

The Sentinels had expressed confidence in Blackwell, who is black. The group’s president, Phill Black, said he was shocked by the firing, but he expects the department of more than 1,100 employees to rally around 26-year veteran Isaac “because that’s what we need.”

He said the department is “going to move forward.”

Fraternal Order of Police local president Kathy Harrell said department morale was low, and she expects Isaac to improve communication. The police union had planned to take a “no confidence” vote on Blackwell before he was fired.

“I will say it’s a sad day for the Cincinnati Police Department,” she said. “No one wants to see a chief fired, but it’s not surprising.”

Blackwell told WLWT-TV he intends to sue for wrongful termination. He blamed lack of support from Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black.

Blackwell had come under increasing criticism in recent months as gun violence rose in Cincinnati.

“At a time in which our city, like so many across the country, is facing a dangerous spike in violence, we simply cannot afford such ineffective leadership,” Black, the city manager, wrote in a report on Blackwell.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Isaac said he will focus on problem-solving policing and working with the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, a community and multiagency collaborative effort.

“It is a proven strategy,” Isaac said, while adding that Blackwell brought some “tremendous programs” to the city and that he doesn’t intend to eliminate them all.

“I will look at effectiveness and availability of staff,” Isaac said, adding: “I will embrace our youth.”

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