Columbus voters in November approved an amendment to establish a Civilian Police Review Board and Inspector General to investigate complaints of officer misconduct.
The work group charged with developing the framework for that board has released its recommendations.
The diverse, 16-member work group issued 17 recommendations. Among them; the Civilian Police Review Board should include 9 members with staggered three-year terms. Members will be selected by Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther in consultation with City Council, and Council would give final approval.
Civilian Police Review Board members must be diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, age, politics, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, and professional skill - and most must live in the city of Columbus.
Members will receive ongoing training in police tactics, constitutional law, de-escalation, implicit bias, and other critical topics. As city officials have previously called for, the work group stated the review board should have broad investigative authority, including subpoena powers.
Mo Wright serves as president and CEO of RAMA Consulting, which facilitated the discussion for the work group’s seven meetings.
"The group has been extremely thoughtful in this process with some spirited debate and a lot of diverse perspectives," Wright said. "During the course of those deliberations, many of the folks expressed concerns about the accountability measures. We tried to bring forth recommendations that have teeth, that are bold, that are thoughtful, and that are thorough. These recommendations matter. They matter to our neighbors. They matter to the citizens of Columbus, and they certainly matter to residents who look like me."
Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther welcomed the recommendations, and the city has already opened the application window. Applications must be submitted by January 15, and the mayor said the city will move swiftly on member selections. Once board members are seated, the next step would involve the search and hiring of an inspector general, who the work group decided would serve a five-year-term.
While the work group discussed at length the possibility of a review board that could implement disciplinary decisions, the panel notes that power is exceedingly rare, and even where it has been granted by local law, it's faced significant challenges from state law and collective bargaining agreements.
Ultimately, the work group determined disciplinary "recommendations" are appropriate because they exert pressure on key figures in public safety, including the police chief and safety director, who have the final say on discipline.
The review board only involves police misconduct involving the Columbus Division of Police, and so at this point would not handle the Casey Goodson Junior case. Goodson was shot and killed by a Franklin County deputy earlier this month. Federal authorities have taken over the investigation.