COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The leader of the union representing Columbus police officers is willing to listen and cooperate with reform efforts, despite accusations to the contrary from the mayor.
Mayor Andrew Ginther has made it clear he believes the Fraternal Order of Police is obstructionist and that they are refusing to be part of the solution as the city moves towards meaningful police reform.
The FOP is telling a very different story. FOP Capital City Lodge President Keith Ferrell says the idea that police are refusing to change or talk is simply not true. He says no one has invited them to the conversation.
“I don’t think we have a disconnect with the community at all. We are here to do our job,” said Ferrell. He says the FOP is more than willing to talk about police reform, and has done so with pastors, community leaders and elected officials throughout Franklin County. It has not done so with Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.
In an interview with NBC4’s Colleen Marshall, Ferrell acknowleged the breakdown in talks with the city is not good for the city.
“So, what’s going on between the FOP and Mayor Ginther,” asked Colleen Marshall. “What’s behind this clear issue where each of you is accusing the other of not listening and not doing your job?”
“I wish I knew, to be honest,” said Ferrell. “It’s unfortunate because it’s not good for the citizens of Columbus, what’s going on. It’s not good for the officers.”
“You have no idea why he seems to be targeting the FOP?” asked Colleen Marshall.
“I don’t know. I would live for you to ask him that question,” said Ferrell.
The mayor claims the FOP is frustrated because the community is holding them accountable, that the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis exposed problems in Columbus.
“When we see a police officer’s knee on the neck of a citizen, how should we react?” asked Colleen Marshall. “Why shouldn’t people be furious?”
“The public should expect law enforcement to be held accountable and to act in a professional manner. And I would say overall, probably better service records than a lot of other professions,” said Ferrell. “Officers across the country do just that. But let me say, this from a police officer’s perspective, no one dislikes that more than police officers.”
Ferrell says police take an oath to serve and protect — all citizens — including those whose businesses were destroyed and cars surrounded during the George Floyd protests.
Some officers believe they were hamstrung by City Hall during those sometimes violent encounters.
As the city calls for police reform, he insists police are ready to listen and cooperate, despite claims to the contrary from the mayor. He says police in Columbus already receive training in deescalation and implicit bias.
“And I am very proud of that,” said Ferrell. “It doesn’t mean we can’t improve. It doesn’t mean we can’t have dialogue and talk about how we can move forward with this community. But to paint us with a brush that we are a systemic racist organization is not accurate.”
It’s the reason Ferrell says the mayor should invite the FOP to the table.
“And I think that’s where we get the understanding and respect for the citizens and for the officers. And I think it’s important. That’s why we’re involved in those committees. And I don’t know why he wouldn’t want us to be part of that,” said Ferrell.