About a month ago, the city established an email for residents to report complaints about the police response to recent protests. Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther today announced that at least 56 incidents will face further investigation.
"The firm of BakerHostetler will handle the cases that require administrative action," Ginther said. "These are actions that are outside of police policy and open for discipline within the division of police. A total of approximately 40 incidents so far will be referred to BakerHostetler. In addition, we are engaging a professional investigator - a retired FBI agent - to investigate incidents that may result in criminal charges. A total of 16 incidents thus far have been referred for criminal review."
Ginther expects additional cases to follow as there are many incidents still under review and additional complaints sent through the Internal Affairs Bureau. The city is still finalizing details of the agreement and did not name the investigator, but Ginther said the outside agent provides another layer of trust for the public that the investigations will be independent. The mayor today also seated a workgroup that will structure a civilian review board.
"I will demand that whatever form and structure they (the workgroup members) recommend that it must have real authority," Ginther said of the civilian review board. "It must have subpoena power and the strongest investigation powers allowed under the law in order to provide the oversight and accountability we need."
Among the 16 members of the workgroup are Peoples Justice Project organizer Jasmine Ayres, Impact Community Action's Bo Chilton, Columbus Urban League President and CEO Stephanie Hightower, and Columbus Bar Association counsel Kent Markus. Mayor Ginther was also pressed by reporters about why he's now overseeing the information the police division releases to the public.
"The division of police is part of the city of Columbus," Ginther said. "It's not some separate, independent organization. It’s part of the city of Columbus just the way the department of public service and utilities and recreation and parks. If any of those departments or their divisions were in the midst of the greatest social unrest that we've seen in 50 years, I would require them to communicate and coordinate with the mayor's office to make sure that the public is getting clear, accurate, and complete information."
"Filtered through City Hall," a reporter asked.
"Those are your words," Ginther responded. "That's not accurate. What I would say is that as somebody who is directly accountable to the people of Columbus, I want to make sure that any information that's being shared by our departments and divisions is accurate, complete, and thorough."
As for the first case investigations, Ginther said he wants action and decisions as soon as possible. He also said the city might consider an independent prosecutor for the cases. Ginther wants a civilian review board in place by the end of the year.
The full list of members selected for the group forming the framework for the civilian review board:
· Jasmine Ayres, community organizer, Peoples Justice Project
· Fred Benton, attorney
· Bo Chilton, President and CEO, Impact Community Action
· Dr. Lewis Dodley, IMPACT Community Action
· Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO of Columbus Urban League
· Pastor Frederick LaMarr, President, Baptist Pastors Conference
· Kent Markus, General/Bar Counsel, Columbus Bar Association
· Jonathan McCombs, Dean of College of Health and Public Administration, Franklin University
· Ismail Mohammad, attorney, Ismail Law Office
· Densil R. Porteous, Chair, Create Columbus
· Aslyne Rodriguez, Director of Government Affairs, COTA
· Janay Stevens, President, John Mercer Langston Bar Association, Associate, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP
· Kyle Strickland, Senior Legal Analyst, Kirwin Institute
· Erin Synk, Director of Government Relations, LNE Group
· Nana Watson, President, NAACP Columbus
· Anthony Wilson, Vice President National Organization of Black Law Enforcement - Columbus Chapter