Chief for a Day
“I’m the chief now,” Cincinnati’s top cop Jeffrey Blackwell said as he threw his arm around the young man from Winton Hills Academy who just walked into Blackwell’s office at District One headquarters.
Without hesitating, 12-year-old Malik Lee politely but firmly corrected him, “No, I’m the chief until I leave the building.” He was, after all, “Chief for a Day.”
After the minor power skirmish, the pair was back to talking about riding in choppers and Malik’s plans to serve in the Army, become a police officer, and then take Chief Blackwell’s job as chief of the more than 1,100-person urban police department.
Seven hours into a schedule of K-9, SWAT and emergency communications demonstrations, Malik was hard pressed to single out the best part. At one point, he decided it was the chance to ride a Segway. Then again, he really liked the firearms training.
Finally, as he headed to the elevators, Malik made the call: “It was the Chief’s staff meeting because I gave orders and they all listened to me.”
Programs like this are worth every minute, Chief Blackwell said. “Kids need to have someone in life they don’t want to let down…someone to keep them on the right track to success.” There are so many young people in the city who are “diamonds in the rough,” he said, adding “They need to know that they matter. Malik matters.”
The challenge for every police officer is to repair what the chief calls the fractured relationship with youth. That can happen only when teenagers see police as people first, police second, said the chief.
Top photo: L to R, Police Director of Communications Tiffaney Hardy, Chief Malik Lee, and Sgt. Julie Johnson.
Bottom Photo: Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and Malik Lee.