COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus city leaders have announced plans for a charter amendment to create a civilian police review board and an inspector general.
City Council is expected to adopt the wording of the proposed amendment on July 27. The proposal would then be placed on the November ballot for a vote by residents.
Mayor Andrew Ginther said it’s important that voters have the opportunity to be a part of the police reform process.
“The charter amendment will allow Columbus voters to clearly demonstrate their desire for police reform and establish a framework for a civilian review board that has subpoena powers, the authority to conduct independent investigations, recommend disciplinary action and that is fully staffed and funded,” Ginther said.
A civilian review board was one of the recommendations of the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission presented to Ginther in January. Commission Chairwoman Janet Jackson said citizens expressed the belief that a civilian review board could help rebuild trust between police officers and the community.
“They want to try to bring the community and the police closer together,” Jackson said. “What could they do to build more trust with our police officers and they felt that having this board would certainly do that.”
Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said the message from the community was loud and clear.
“Our residents want to see change,” Hardin said. “This amendment is a strong starting point to establish a civilian review board and will allow the community to build off this foundation to shape a board that reflects our shared values.”
The amendment would also establish a Department of the Inspector General for the Columbus Division of Police. The inspector general will work as an independent investigatory body that will be fully funded, staffed, and directed by the Civilian Police Review Board.
The mayor and council president were joined by community leaders for the Monday morning announcement about the charter amendment.
“We appreciate the important work police officers do to protect residents,” said Alex Fischer, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership. “I believe if we have learned nothing more this summer, it is that we all have to dig deep in our hearts and in our organizations and think about how we’re going to improve and how we’re going to change.”
“A civilian review board is needed in Columbus to enhance safety and trust between police and the communities they serve,” Fischer added.
Many of the key elements of a strong civilian review board, including the ability to impose rather than simply recommend disciplinary action, must be negotiated with the Fraternal Order of Police.
Keith Ferrell, president of the FOP, issued the following statement Monday afternoon:
“The FOP is committed to meaningful change and would welcome the opportunity to work with anyone in the city to ensure our 4,300 law enforcement officers are the model for the nation. The FOP has never received a citizen review board proposal from the Mayor during these times. We look forward to that dialogue and leadership.
It is unfortunate that Mayor Ginther feels the need to waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars or their time on a charter amendment. We welcome dialogue and to use the collective bargaining process to move forward for everyone, but Mayor Ginther is not out to compromise. Mayor Ginther is out to attack collective bargaining rights, plain and simple.
The firefighter union has already sent a letter to Mayor Ginther warning him not to do anything to weaken the collective bargaining rights of police, firefighters, or other public employees. The Mayor’s attack on police officers is an attack on all labor.
The FOP is disappointed that the Mayor has not taken the same position about collective bargaining rights as he did during the Senate Bill 5 fight in 2011 when labor was attacked across Ohio. It is time for the Mayor to communicate with the FOP and have true dialogue so we can all work together to better this community instead of dividing it.”Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Ferrell