Columbus officials today announced a charter amendment to establish a civilian police review board and an inspector general for the police division.
Upon expected approval from City Council at its July 27 meeting, the amendment will be on the November ballot. Council president Shannon Hardin said the review board and inspector general will be independent of the police division and public safety department.
“It will be a separate department and have its own budget,” Hardin continued. “Included in this charter language are specific provisions to ensure sufficient funding for the review board and ensure that years down the line, this board is protected from the whims of elected officials who might be less friendly to accountability and oversight than the elected officials standing before you today. The civilian police review board will have professional staff to assist in the investigations of misconduct cases. The board will have subpoena power to ensure that they are able to see all the documents involved in the case.”
Mayor Ginther acknowledged the city would still need to reach some agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police.
“Some of the changes proposed in the charter amendment could be legally implemented without having to negotiate with the FOP,” Ginther said. “But some of the most important powers granted through the passage of the charter amendment, including the independent investigatory body or inspector general, would be subject to negotiation. We believe the passage of this charter amendment will demonstrate clear public support for police reform from the people of Columbus. Then the FOP can decide on which side they stand – with the people or against them.”
Ginther said more details including the cost and size of the review board will be determined by the working group created to craft its framework. Erin Synk is part of that 16-member panel.
“Over the next several months, our working group is going to work to establish the form and function and further definition, the investigation and review powers,” Synk said. “We’re going to do so using stakeholder and community feedback to ensure that this board meets the needs of Columbus, that it works toward rebuilding trust and legitimacy where it may be shaken, and really form that new relationship where there’s increased transparency, respect, and engagement with one another.”
The amendment has support from the Columbus Partnership, the NAACP’s Columbus chapter, and local faith leaders. City Council will take hold a public hearing on the proposal Wednesday afternoon at 3.