COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Thursday morning that the U.S. Justice Department has accepted an offer to review the city’s police force.
“This is not about one particular officer, policy, or incident,” Ginther said. “Rather, this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus.”
Ginther cited earlier reforms that will complement the federal review in reshaping Columbus’ police force, including changes to its use-of-force policy, an independent investigation and the formation of a civilian review board.
The police force has been under scrutiny since its response to protests Downtown during the summer of 2020. In the months that followed came the shooting deaths of Andre’ Hill, an unarmed Black man, by an officer who was fired from the force a week later, and of Ma’Khia Bryant, a teenager who was threatening to attack others with a knife, among other incidents.
Bryant said potential areas of focus for the federal review include policy and evaluation, officer and leadership training, recruitment, technology and establishing an early intervention system for officers.
“We ask our officers to constantly train to be better, to strive for the next level of skill and excellence. This is no different,” Bryant said. “Our work is too important, the stakes are too high, for us to ever be satisfied with the status quo.”
The review will be conducted by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. Its acting director, Robert Chapman, spoke of the program’s philosophy in a statement.
“All of the assistance provided by the COPS Office embraces community policing as a core fundamental philosophy,” Chapman said. “Reinforcing the key tenets of community policing – partnerships, the use of problem-solving to address crime systematically, and transforming both organizations and their people – will result not only in more effective law enforcement, but also in communities that are safer and stronger.”
Keith Ferrell, president of the Capital City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement that his group, which represents Columbus police officers, is open to the process:
“The Fraternal Order of Police is always open to dialogue about ways to improve training, technology and recruiting within the Columbus Division of Police. We have worked with the City just recently in implementing a citizen review board along with an inspector general to improve transparency within the Division of Police. We are confident in the leadership of Chief Bryant in that she will protect the integrity of the department and maintain the level of services that the officers and the public deserve. We are also confident in the professionalism of the officers, and we look forward to improving one of the best police departments in the country.”