Violence in Columbus: Community solutions grow as police powers shift

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — By April, there were 59 homicide investigations in Columbus. That’s nearly double from the previous year’s total of 29.

At the same time, the role of the police is shifting following the city’s efforts to re-imagine policing.

This is a transitional time for police, and community programs still in their infancy. Noel Williams chaired the police reform committee for Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity (BREAD).

BREAD recommended three programs which were adopted by Columbus: Restorative Justice, Restorative Practice, and the Gun Violence Initiative. The cooperation of the police force, explained Williams, will be key to making the projects work.

‘Traditional policing hasn’t keep minority communities safe’

“When we talk about policing, traditional policing, let’s be honest, the data shows it’s ineffective. It’s not keeping us safe, and when it comes to the minority community, there is aggressive policing. The history of policing comes out of slavery. I have my undergrad degree in Law Enforcement, so I get it. I really do. But we must reimagine policing. People talk about community policing — what does that look like? What BREAD has advocated for, pushed for successfully, is the Gun Violence Initiative, which the city has finally put money to implement it [in March].”

Williams described three programs that BREAD has seen adopted in Columbus:

“[Restorative justice] is reactionary — it addresses harm done. Restorative practice is pro-active, it’s about relationship building. That has to happen with the police. Columbus must become a restorative city. When you bring that into the community, you bring the families in.

Proper parenting is a key component in community policing

“No parent wants to bring up a child to commit crimes. … But if you don’t understand what proper parenting looks like, if you don’t understand how to create meaningful relationships and have a meaningful dialogue, and how to hold your children accountable without abuse, you don’t know what to do. So we can say more parents needs to be involved, but what will that look like?”

People who persist in choosing to be violent will go to prison

Q: What will the ideal outcome be in terms of the role of the police officers and the community?

“There will be more relationship, positive relationship. There will be not only law enforcement officers policing the community, but the community assisting in policing itself. So there will be a reduction in crime — I’m only talking about what the data shows. The people who are most violent are either going to come along in the program or they will be locked up. But they will be given an opportunity to come into the fold, or there is a different fold you can go into, and that’s called incarceration.”

The next police chief will be critical to policing success

Williams says that when a community reimagines policing, there’s a transition that has to be done psychologically, mentally and emotionally. This is hard when you’ve been trained in a certain way.

“I’m a firm believer in that leadership starts at the top and flows down. That’s why it’s critically important who our next new police chief is, that understands reconciliation — there’s got to be reconciliation, for the harm that has been done.”

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