COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Community leaders are sharing how the arrests of two Columbus Division of Police officers on federal drug charges impact the community and what needs to happen next.
Three different people weighed in on this.
Noel Williams with B.R.E.A.D, Chenelle Jones, the Public Safety Chairperson at Franklin University, and Jeffrey P. Kee, a local pastor.
Williams said the arrest hurts the community.
“They, as well as we all, are innocent until proven guilty and so these are allegations, but they’re serious allegations,” she said.
Williams serves as the police reform chairperson for B.R.E.A.D., a group of local faith leaders who are calling for change when it comes to policing in Columbus.
“Whatever little bit of trust was starting to happen, it dissolves it, it erodes it,” she said about the charges.
The officers, identified as John J. Kotchkoski, 33, and Marco Merino, 44, were arrested by the FBI Tuesday and charged with crimes connected to the distribution of fentanyl. Both are officers in the department’s narcotics division.
Jones agrees with Williams’ sentiment, adding it also hurts officers who are following their oath.
“Now they have to go and explain this situation that happened and then distinguish themselves; ‘I’m not like that officer, the rest of us aren’t like those officers,’” she said.
Mayor Andrew Ginther and new Police Chief Elaine Bryant both released statements about the charges early Wednesday expressing their anger.
Kee said the statements from city leaders are enough…for now.
“We need to see a guiding coalition that says that this is not going to be tolerated in the capital city,” said Kee, pastor of New Faith Baptist Church.
Jones said there needs to be an address from the city at some point during the investigation.
“Some sort of opportunity so the chief as well as the mayor as well as the new director of public safety to come on camera and let the community know what is going on,” she said.
All three would also like to see accountability throughout the department, not just regarding these charges.
“How we are going to deal with it now is the real resolve and that’s what I’m waiting to hear,” Kee said.