After weeks of protests against police brutality and clashes between demonstrators and the division, Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther is calling for "significant, substantial and swift" changes in policing, including the long-debated civilian review board.
And he warned the police union needs to get on board.
"We want change and reform. We want oversight and accountability. And this isn’t about whether or not the FOP chooses to work with me. This is what the community is demanding. And if we do not see the justice and reform and change that we need, I know that the community will hold them accountable.”
Ginther says the city will continue to implement the recommendations made by the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission in January, and presented in a 300-page report by an outside company in August 2019. The city will begin next week to create the civilian review board, which will be operating by the end of the year. A hotline for complaints about police behavior has already been set up, and the city has joined the 8 Can't Wait movement, which calls for reforms such as banning chokeholds and empowering officers to intervene when they see bad behavior by other officers. Ginther says the city will take additional steps - and ensure existing orders are observed.
"For the first time in the city's history we will hire an independent law firm to investigate the complaints that may deserve administrative discipline. And a separate law enforcement entity - outside the Columbus Division of Police - to review those complaints that may demand criminal charges. Body-worn cameras have truned out to be an excellent tool in holding the police and the community accountable. But the protests of the last few weeks have shown their limitations. We are correcting this, so that cameras will always be worn."
But Ginther says he won't support disbanding or even defunding the police division. Instead, he says the city needs to develop alternative responses, using community response teams, nurses, mental health counselors and others where possible, freeing police to focus on dangerous or threatening situations. The police union, which has long opposed creating a civilian review board on police misconduct, says the city and the mayor's orders have been muddled, leaving officers unprotected.
But police union president Keith Ferrell has said he doesn't trust the mayor to have the division's back, saying executive orders and previous attempts at reform have left officers unprotected.