Mayor asks for federal review of Columbus police operations

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and City Attorney Zach Klein are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a review of the Columbus Division of Police.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Ginther and Klein ask the DOJ to review reform efforts, assess CPD’s operations for racial disparities, offer remedies to address those disparities and provide an environment that fosters trust between police and residents.

The full letter reads:

Dear Deputy Director Chapman:

This letter is a follow-up to our conversation on Monday, April 26, 2021 with you and other representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Columbus City Attorney’s office and the Mayor’s office. Thank you for taking the time to discuss Columbus police reform efforts and for considering our invitation to engage in a review of Columbus police operations, identifying any and all racial biases in policing efforts, and offering findings and coordinated solutions for reform.

The City of Columbus is committed to reform. We must align the reality of how we are policing with community expectations of how we should be policing. We recognize this can only be done through the implementation of new and best practices that will make Columbus a national model in 21st Century policing.

Columbus has made significant progress in recent years in police reform, conducting an external audit of the Division of Police and completing a community-driven review of police practices, resulting in 200-plus recommendations, many of which have been implemented. Still, despite steadfast efforts to advance change, the City has been met with fierce opposition from leadership within the Columbus Division of Police. This is not about one particular officer, policy, or incident; rather, this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus. Simply put: We need to change the culture of the Columbus Division of Police.

While we will continue to press for change through new leadership, policy changes, and collective bargaining, it has become clear we will not be able to affect the rapid, significant and sustainable change we all desire and demand without different levers of power.

As we discussed, we are inviting the engagement of the DOJ to conduct a review of the Columbus Division of Police and issue findings that:

• Evaluate current reform efforts, determine whether they are appropriate and sufficient, and where lacking, make additional recommendations for change;
• Assess the operations of the Columbus Division of Police and determine whether deficiencies and racial disparities exist within the Division, including, but not limited to:

• Recruitment
• Hiring
• Training
• Enforcement
• Use of force
• Discipline

• Offer remedies to address findings/deficiencies/racial disparities supported with examples and best practices, as well as new and progressive approaches to law enforcement/crisis response.
• Provide an environment that fosters trust between the Division of Police and the residents of the City of Columbus.

We want to be partners with the DOJ to bring about meaningful, sustainable and significant reforms. Not only is the elected leadership in the City of Columbus aligned with this request, but the residents of Columbus unquestionably share the same goal.

With that common understanding, it is our intent and desire to welcome the DOJ, and we pledge to work cooperatively to advance meaningful police reform. We understand, however, that if the DOJ discovers disparities that the City of Columbus, Columbus Division of Police, the FOP and/or the collective bargaining contract between the City and the FOP are unable or unwilling to correct, that the DOJ has the ability and authority to use court-ordered enforcement mechanisms afforded to them pursuant to federal law. If we exhaust all remedies available to us as partners, and litigation becomes necessary, we will fully support these efforts because we share the ultimate goal of reforming policing practices in the City of Columbus.

If you accept our invitation to willingly and voluntarily engage with us in these important efforts, we hope to work cooperatively to determine the best way to communicate the arrangement, including through the engagement of our community partners who we know are eager to join our unified mission. While we will defer to the DOJ, we would like to act expeditiously to formally engage the U.S. Department of Justice within the next 30 days.

Mayor Andrew Ginther, City Attorney Zach Klein

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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