Speaking at Washington Gladden Social Justice Park, faith leaders today continued their call for a change in culture within the Columbus police division.
Three months ago, the group submitted a list of demands, including a call for improved working conditions for minority officers and better police-community relations. Reverend Timothy Ahrens, senior minister of the adjacent First Congregational Church, says the group met with Mayor Andy Ginther last month.
“We saw a lot of positives from the mayor about what needs to be done, but we have not seen the fulfillment of the seven expectations,” Ahrens said. “Since we started, the police chief has announced her retirement, and we commend the mayor for a nationwide search that he’s announced for a new police chief. With the 50 pastors, rabbis, priests, imams, cantors, and other lay religious leaders, we expect to be a part of the search.”
Veteran officer Melissa McFadden carefully prefaced her remarks by saying she speaks only as a private citizen and not as a representative for the Columbus division.
“For the first time in my 22-year career, I believe there will be change,” McFadden said. “With the work of the faith leaders standing up for justice, we have hope that change is coming. On behalf of the female officers and the black officers that have experienced and continue to endure discrimination and retaliation at the hands of an unjust system, I would like to thank faith leaders for fighting for us because we do not have the means to fight for ourselves.”
McFadden faced accusations last year of creating a hostile work environment and violating federal employment laws. Although Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs recommended McFadden be fired, Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr. found the allegations could not be substantiated. McFadden has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the division. Meanwhile, a commission created by the mayor continues its comprehensive review of all policies and procedures within the police division. That 17-member commission has been meeting since last April.