Columbus police chief Thomas Quinlan steps down after one year

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Thomas Quinlan stepped down Thursday as Columbus police chief, a little over a year after he assumed the role permanently.

In announcing the move, Mayor Andrew Ginther said, “It became clear to me that Chief Quinlan could not successfully implement the reform and change I expect and that the community demands. Columbus residents have lost faith in him and in Division’s ability to change on its own. Chief Quinlan understood. He agreed to step back, so the city can move forward.”

Quinlan, 54, had been appointed chief by Ginther in December 2019 after serving as interim chief since the previous February. When hired, Quinlan received a one-year probationary contract. He will now assume a role as deputy chief.

Ginther said that Deputy Chief Mike Woods will serve as interim chief while a national search is conducted for a successor. The city has retained Ralph Andersen & Associates to help with the search, the same firm that was used when Quinlan was hired to replace Kim Jacobs, who retired.

Here is Ginther’s complete statement:

It became clear to me that Chief Quinlan could not successfully implement the reform and change I expect and that the community demands. Columbus residents have lost faith in him and in Division’s ability to change on its own. Chief Quinlan understood. He agreed to step back, so the city can move forward. I appreciate Chief Quinlan’s service to the community and the changes he was able to implement in his time as chief.

Deputy Chief Mike Woods has agreed to serve as interim chief while we begin our national search for a permanent chief. The search firm Ralph Andersen & Associates will again assist the city in identifying a permanent police chief on an expedited timeframe.

I want to assure Columbus residents that our commitment to change and reform will not wane as we seek the next leader of the Division of Police. In the coming weeks, I will appoint members of the Civilian Review Board that I championed and voters overwhelmingly approved in November. The Board will select an Inspector General, and we will gain civilian oversight of police for the first time in our city’s history. My proposed 2021 budget invests in non-police safety initiatives, including significant increases to mental health, addiction and recovery services and public health and social workers better positioned respond to people in crisis. The City will also invest in next generation body-worn cameras to ensure video and audio evidence is available when needed most.

I remain committed to meaningful, lasting police reform and confronting racism where it exists, advancing social justice so everyone in every neighborhood feels safe.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther

In a statement, Quinlan offered his “help and support” in the transition. Here is his complete statement:

“The opportunity to serve as your Chief of Police has been the honor of my career.  While I very much hoped to continue in that role, I respect the Safety Director’s decision, and the community’s need to go in a different direction.  We accomplished a lot in my time as Chief.  We implemented dozens of reforms geared toward accountability, transparency, and strengthening public trust.  Someone else will now carry those priorities forward, and I will help and support them in any way I can. In my three decades of service to Columbus, my commitment has never been to any title or position.  It has been to this Division and this community I love. That will not change.”

Thomas Quinlan

City Council President Shannon Hardin said he supported Ginther’s decision and also that he appreciated Quinlan’s “genuine efforts to push reform inside the division.”

Quinlan’s term ends about a month after that the city was rocked by two law enforcement officers fatally shooting Black men not accused of crimes.

  • On Dec. 4, Casey Goodson Jr. was shot by Jason Meade, a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy coming off an assignment with the U.S. Marshal’s Service in city limits. Columbus police are investigating the shooting after the state BCI refused Quinlan’s request to get involved, saying it was contacted too late. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.
  • On Dec. 22, Andre’ Hill was shot by Officer Adam Coy, who was responding to a non-emergency call. He shot Hill moments after encountering him, telling a second officer that he thought Hill was armed when he wasn’t. Two days later, Quinlan recommended for Coy to be fired, saying he failed to properly use his body camera by not activating it until the shooting, did not offer Hill immediate medical assistance and did not use de-escalating techniques before shooting. The BCI continues to investigate.

Although Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Hill family, said Quinlan made the right move in terminating Coy, a local religious organization called for Quinlan to be fired in December.

“Two Black men have been gunned down by law enforcement on the streets of Columbus. You know the nation is watching, and yet we still seem to be stumbling around,” Dr. Tim Ahrens of the Area Religious Coalition said on Dec. 23. “What do you believe needs to happen now? Well, for one thing, we think it’s time for [Ginther] to remove Chief Quinlan. We happen to believe that it was the wrong choice for the leader.”

When Quinlan was named chief, he said he would continue work toward making the department a community-focused and service-driven police agency.

“We’ve only just begun on a path of progress designed to make Columbus safer,” Quinlan said at the time, “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 good they can do for their neighbor, rather than what harm their neighbor might do to them.”

That included efforts to diversify the police force and address the disparity in the use of force on racial minorities. The latest class of Columbus Police recruits includes 19 members out of 45 who are female or non-white, which officials believe to be the highest percentage of diversity of any class in recent history.

As interim chief, Quinlan abolished the division’s vice unit after two negative high-profile cases: the arrest of Stormy Daniels during a performance at a nightclub and the fatal shooting of Donna Castleberry by vice officer Andrew Mitchell during a prostitution sting, both in 2018. The city has settled lawsuits in both cases.

Quinlan started his law enforcement career in Madison Township in 1986 and joined Columbus police in 1989. After a series of promotions, he became a deputy chief in 2013.

He graduated from Ohio State University in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. In 2001, he earned a master’s in human resource administration from Central Michigan University. Quinlan is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Police Executive Leadership Institute provided by the Major Cities Chief’s Association.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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