COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Tammy Fournier Alsaada has been fighting against police brutality and calling for police reforms for 15 years. She explained the issues have now reached a tipping point.

“This is a unique moment in our country’s history, because people who have never spoken out have spoken out and said they’re willing to come to the table and think about change,” Fournier Alsaada, with healcolumbus.org, said.

Fournier Alsaada says people are now willing to re-imagine what policing could look like in their communities.

“To really think about how do we respond in a way that doesn’t harm in the way that police violence has harmed every major city in this country,” she said.

She says that is what activists mean when they talk about “defunding” police.

“Defund the police means investing in our schools and the communities harmed the most by police,” Fournier Alsaada said. “Defund the police means looking at our young people and investing in their future.”

“Defunding means if there are police in our community, they live there,” she said. “Their children go to school with our children. It means that we are all dreaming for a better community together. We’re talking about police in our schools. What does it look like to put counselors instead of police officers in Linden McKinley, in South High School, what would that look like.”

Fournier Alsaada says Columbus is farther ahead on police reforms than most major cities and uniquely positioned to lead on the issue.

Columbus Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Knight agrees.

“That is why 14 days after this, we are sitting down at the table and talking with some of the people in the community and going okay, what do you want to see from your police that’s different,” Knight said.

Knight met Monday with representatives of some of the people who have been protesting in downtown Columbus. She said they discussed many things and agreed on four that have near-term potential.

Police, protester discussion points

  • Create positions where social workers can respond to police scenes and certain calls for service to provide support for citizens and create a more robust structure for victim services. Expand the Mobile Crisis Response teams where police and social workers follow up and respond to calls for service.
  • Create more training for officers in cultural competency. Provide training for officers that is given by community members and exposes officers to different experiences and cultural backgrounds
  • Develop a strong plan to deploy officers for positive engagement in minority communities.
  • Seat a member of the group on the Diversity Recruiting Council that will guide police recruiting efforts.

Columbus has plenty of recommendations for change from The Matrix Report, prepared by consultants hired by the city and from the Community Safety Advisory Commission.

“We’ve already done the studies, we’ve already sat down at the table and talked and what they want to know is that all of their conversations mattered and that we are moving forward in a direction,” Knight said.