Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther has announced the members of the city’s safety commission.
Mike Foley reports.
Mayor Ginther has appointed 17 members to the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission. Ginther announced his intention to create the commission in November as part of a comprehensive neighborhood safety strategy to address a spike in violent crime and strained police/community relations. The city received 132 applications for the commission. Ginther selected the 17 members with input from staff. He says they reflect diversity of thought, experience and demographics.
“The purpose of the commission is to review Columbus Division of Police recruitment, training, policies and procedures. The commission will focus on areas such as de-escalation, crisis intervention, implicit bias training, use-of-force policies, diversity recruitment and retention, and early intervention in officer wellness programs. They will also help identify an objective, independent consultant to support their work. Most importantly, the commission will thoroughly review existing research of respected law enforcement and social justice experts and make concrete, actionable recommendations to further strengthen our division of police.”
Janet Jackson will chair the commission. The former United Way of Central Ohio CEO also served as a Franklin County judge and Columbus City Attorney. Jackson says the city faces three intersecting challenges.
“Some in our city, and especially those in our minority communities, question the legitimacy of high profile police actions in Columbus. We also face a spike in homicide rates and an opiate crisis – both of which impact our most vulnerable neighbors in our most challenged neighborhoods. And in the midst of these challenges, we are asking more and more of our police officers in response to the values and expectations of the community they serve. To address these challenges, we must ensure that the Columbus Division of Police has the best training, policies, procedures, and recruitment in the nation.”
Jackson says the commission will also consider the mayor’s goal of doubling the number of minority police officers in Columbus over the next decade. Other commission appointees range from current safety officers to representatives of social service groups. The commission also includes one of the most vocal critics of police – Tammy Alsaada. She’s been at the front of a number of rallies in support of the rights of citizens, including one held last year outside the Columbus Police Academy before Ginther’s State of the City address. While she’s disappointed by an arbitrator’s decision this week to reinstate an officer seen in a video kicking a restrained suspect, Alsaada says she’s hopeful about the commission’s potential.
“How do we collectively solve some of these problems? There is a divide in communities, especially in the black community, on how we’re policed. I’m concerned about how much power our police force has – unchecked and unbalanced. So I will sit on the commission to hopefully weigh in on those concerns. I do believe Mayor Ginther is interested in some of the things we are calling for – more investment in treatment and recovery and trauma, understanding that the black community has been traumatized by the high rates of violence. So we’ll continue to push on that message, and we’re hopeful.”
The commission will hold some public meetings with the first taking place sometime in April. Mayor Ginther wants recommendations by the end of the year.
Here’s the full list of commission members:
· Janet Jackson, retired CEO of United Way of Central Ohio
· Brooke Burns, Office of the Ohio Public Defender
· Emily Buster, Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services
· LaShaun Carter, Franklin County Children Services
· Tammy Fournier-Alsaada, Ohio Organizing Collaborative
· Dr. Chenelle Jones, Franklin University
· Dr. Vlad Kogan, The Ohio State University
· Matthew McCrystal, Ohio Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management Agency
· Ellen Moore Griffin, Community Crime Patrol
· Andrea Morbitzer, Nationwide Children's Hospital
· Pastor Jason Ridley, Allegheny West Conference of Seventh-Day Adventist
· Traci Shaw, Columbus Division of Police
· Erin Synk, LNE Group
· Oleatha Waugh, Columbus Urban League
· Mary Wehrle, Jewish Family Services
· Tiffany White, Progressive Insurance Companies
· Reginald Wilkinson, Connecting the Dots, LLC