Ballot issue 2 could decide fate of civilian review board for Columbus police

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Police reform has been a hot topic for most of the year and Columbus’s mayor said Issue 2 on the ballot could be a huge step in that reform.

People on both sides of Issue 2 want reform that works for Columbus and its police officers, but what they can’t agree on is whether or not the ballot initiative is leading the city in the right direction.

“We respect the will of the people,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther.

During weeks of protests in Columbus earlier this year, people demanded police reform, and one of those demands was a civilian review board.

“We’re the only big city of the country that doesn’t have civilian oversight through a civilian review board,” Ginther said.

He said people have demanded a civilian review board for decades and now voters can start the process. Issue 2 will change the city charter to create a review board to investigate police misconduct and also create an inspector general position.

Issue 2 only provides a framework and no specifics on if the board will have subpoena power, if they’ll have any say over disciplinary actions of police officers, and how much it will cost taxpayers.

Keith Ferrell is the president of the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 9 and does not think that’s fair.

“We want officers doing the right thing,” he said. “We don’t want bad police officers, let me make that perfectly clear, but I do want them to be treated fairly.”

Ferrell wants the civilian review board to be fair for the people of Columbus and the officers, but admits he is concerned that won’t happen because of the climate we live in.

“What we’ve heard by various politicians throughout this whole thing leads us to believe this is not going to be a fair process,” he said. “That’s our concern.”

Ferrell added police are willing to accept a civilian review board just as they did with the Reynoldsburg Police Department, but said when it comes to Issue 2 as proposed here in Columbus, he’s not onboard.

“I would absolutely vote no. I would never vote for something without knowing how much it will cost me as a taxpayer, of the details of it,” he said.

Ferrell also noted other cities with civilian review boards still have issues with their police departments.

If Issue 2 passes, the details of the board will have to be negotiated between the City of Columbus and the FOP.

The city has a working group looking at different review boards across the nation, determining best practices and what may or may not work in Columbus.

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