Independent review of Columbus protests finds rift between city leaders, police

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — An independent report on the response by city officials and police to last summer’s protests in Downtown Columbus found that not only is there a distrust of police in the Black community but that a rift exists between city and police leadership.

“Without a well-functioning approach to public safety, the entire City loses,” the report stated.

You can read the full 111-page report here, and it will be presented to city council Monday afternoon. Three of the people who worked on the report spoke before that presentation: Carter Stewart, a former U.S. Attorney; Trevor Brown, dean of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State; and Frank Straub, director of the Center for Mass Violence Response Studies at the Police Foundation. You can watch their remarks in the player above.

The report found that the city was unprepared for the “size and energy of the protests that began” on May 27: “There was no plan for how to handle this type of protest laid out in advance. Once the protests began, there was a lack of coordination — and even regular communication — among city leaders regarding how to respond.” It also found that orders to officers changed depending on who on duty was in charge at a particular time.

And it found “a large rift between CPD and the community, particularly communities of color. There is distrust, anger, and fear directed towards the police that not only undermines the basic functionality of the criminal justice system, but also sows seeds for future, conflictual protests.”

Key recommendations included:

  • City leaders and police take “active steps towards a reconciliation with those community members who are disaffected and angry, particularly Black community members”
  • Police should consider whether riot gear is appropriate in responding to protests and the impact that the sight of it has on protestors
  • Police should consider identifying officers who can engage and interact with protestors
  • Police should establish protocols to ensure that officers using tear gas have appropriate training, and city and police should define when its use is appropriate
  • Police should train for potential future scenarios and demonstrations (the last mass-protest training was in 2015)
  • City and police should study street protests and whether they should require a permit
  • City and police should establish an emergency command center and identify who would fill various roles in future emergencies

The report was commissioned in July after a series of clashes between police and protestors Downtown. The protests were in response to multiple Black people being killed by law enforcement officers, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

As the report was being put together, an independent investigation looked into whether police violated any laws in their response, and it found eight complaints against police officers that were substantiated by evidence.

The report was commissioned by Mayor Andrew Ginther, City Attorney Zach Klein, Council President Shannon Hardin and former police chief Thomas Quinlan. It set out with three purposes:

  1. Document interactions between community members and law enforcement;
  2. Evaluate the city’s preparation and response to the protests;
  3. Generate recommendations about how to improve performance.

After the protests last summer, they returned months later in Columbus after another series of Blacks being killed in encounters with law enforcement, including Casey Goodson Jr., Andre’ Hill and Ma’Khia Bryant.

Quinlan has since returned to his former role as a deputy chief, with the city currently searching for a replacement.

On Monday evening, Ginther posted the following statement on Facebook:

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