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Quinlan To Head Columbus Division Of Police

Dec 17, 2019

Tom Quinlan after the press conference. He's the city's 34th police chief.
Credit Foley

Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther today named Tom Quinlan as the city's police chief. 

Quinlan has served the last ten months as interim chief. The city began a national search in January with 36 candidates applying for the position. Quinlan and former Seattle Assistant Police Chief Perry Tarrant were the finalists, and both took part in a well-attended community forum in November. 

Ginther cited Quinlan's reorganization of the police division and a cultural shift toward accountability, transparency, and compassion as reasons for the decision. But the mayor also acknowledged a lack of consensus on his choice and offered a message to those who favored Tarrant. 

"Stay engaged, hold us accountable, and step up your involvement in other ways that we can make our community safer," Ginther said. "I think Tom is going to want ongoing community engagement to give him feedback on things that are working well and things that are not. We want you to stay engaged even if you don't support this chief or this decision. We want you to stay engaged because you are going to make us better as a division and make us more transparent and accountable." 

Quinlan speaks at the press conference after being named the city's police chief.
Credit Foley

Ginther says he expects continued progress from Quinlan on building stronger relationships with the community, holding officers accountable for their actions, and ensuring division personnel have the training and tools to do their jobs. He also encouraged the new chief to address racism inside and outside the division. An independent report of the police division's operations released in August found disparities in the way residents and officers within the division experience policing, including instances of racism and discrimination. Quinlan has been implementing the 140 recommendations from that report and pledged to do more. 

"We've only just begun to engage our neighborhoods," Quinlan said. "We've only just begun to nurture enduring relationships with community members, advocates, and our remarkable partner agencies. We've only just begun on a path of progress designed to make Columbus safer, to ensure members of the community feel they have a voice in the service we provide, and to know they can worry more about what they can do for their neighbor rather than what harm their neighbor might do to them. We've only just begun to build a more diverse police agency, which must reflect the community we serve. We've only just begun to make the interactions between police officers and the community members more positive and productive. Whether you are a member of the community or one of my division employees, I want to ensure you are treated fairly and with respect. I will not tolerate racism or discrimination. Our work is too important and the lives we impact too precious."

Quinlan will also be guided by the Community Safety Advisory Commission, which the mayor created in March 2018 as part of a comprehensive strategy to address a spike in violent crime and strained community/police relations. Ginther expects recommendations from that 17-member group sometime in January. The city says Quinlan will serve a one-year probationary term. After that, he can be reappointed for up to two five-year terms.  Many faith leaders around Columbus expresed disappointment with Quinlan's promotion, calling it a missed opportunity to break with policies of the past.