6 Columbus Officers Ordered To Cooperate With Protest Probe
An independent investigator has ordered six Columbus officers to cooperate with a probe into allegations of police brutality during anti-racism protests last summer. Rick Wozniak, the retired FBI agent hired by the city to lead the investigation, says the six officers are not suspected of wrongdoing but are considered witnesses needed to prosecute potential crimes. Statements by the officers can't be used against them but failure to cooperate could lead to departmental charges of insubordination. Wozniak says only five of 60 officers identified as connected with the protests have agreed to be interviewed and only after receiving a guarantee that they would not be criminally prosecuted.
A federal lawsuit filed in July on behalf of more than two dozen Columbus protesters seeks monetary damages for injuries sustained in clashes with police after the death of George Floyd. The lawsuit describes peaceful demonstrators and bystanders being beaten, fired on with wooden and rubber bullets, and unlawfully arrested during protests in late May and June.
Officers challenging investigative tactics by Wozniak and Kathleen Garber, a former county prosecutor, filed a complaint in Franklin County Court March 19 arguing the investigators' efforts are unconstitutional, The Columbus Dispatch has reported. The complaint was voluntarily dismissed a few days later, leading to this final legal maneuver known as Garrity.
“This investigation has one focus: accountability to the people of Columbus,” said Garber. “No one is above the law. That includes law enforcement. If laws were broken, we will hold those responsible accountable. It is concerning and disappointing that the people standing in the way of that accountability are fellow officers.”