BC’s Side-by-Side audiences have come to expect unusual candor and honest self-reflection from notable leaders, and the region’s top cops didn’t disappoint.  For an hour and a half they answered questions about their formative years and beliefs they now hold as leaders.

Side-by-Side: Chief Blackwell and Sheriff Neil

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Sheriff Neil’s path into law enforcement followed his father’s career as a Cincinnati policeman; Chief Blackwell’s started when he and a friend one day decided to take the Columbus police exam, since they “weren’t doing anything else at the moment.”

Young Jeffery Blackwell was inspired by a wealthy basketball player turned successful businessman who told him if he wanted success he needed to quit fooling around and get to work. As a young officer he realized he wanted to change the relationship between law enforcement and his poor urban community, and would need to work his way up the ladder of power and influence and make changes from within.  And so he has, having taken only one day off work since he took the job two years ago.

Jim Neil spoke passionately about integrity, the power of collaboration, including with the CPD, and the value of continuous training for his deputies.

Asked if they’d ever changed their minds about a previously held belief, the Sheriff pointed out he was a lifelong West Side conservative, but when the Republicans pushed through Senate Bill 5, undermining police unions whose input he saw as indispensable to his agency’s administration, he decided to run for Sheriff as a Democrat, albeit a conservative one!

The Chief spoke touchingly of the destructive impact of the war on drugs that he once thought important, especially on inner city families whose fathers have been jailed and rendered unemployable as felons for marijuana violations that before long will likely be legal everywhere.

When introducing the speakers, Judge Beth Myers referenced an NPR story, aired only hours earlier, in which the National FOP president was asked about solutions to problems like those in Baltimore and advised looking to Cincinnati where they’re “doing it right!”

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