Number 2: Columbus voters have a say in the Civilian Police Review Board


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The murder of Minneapolis man George Floyd in May sparked protests across the country. Since his death, there has been a flood of protests from Columbus demanding police reform.

In response to the protests, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said the city has already put in place several reforms, but one of the most important has yet to be implemented.

“Columbus is the only major city in America that does not have some form of civilian oversight board,” Ginther said.

According to a national report According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, about 80% of the largest US cities have some sort of police review board. This election, voters can decide whether Columbus should join them.

If the voting initiative going on, Number 2 would create a civilian review board to conduct independent investigations into allegations of police misconduct in the city. He would also appoint an Inspector General for the Columbus Police Division.

How the board would work

July 1, same Ginther day referred 56 incidents from the Columbus police to third parties for possible criminal or administrative charges, the mayor also appointed a working group to define the operation of the review board.

The 16-person task force is made up of lawyers, former police officers and police reform advocates.

Civilian Police Review Boards different across the country. In some cities, committees review investigations that have already been completed. In others, they launch their own probes. Columbus wants to institute this last model.

“We believe that the Civilian Review Board must have subpoena powers, the power to conduct independent investigations, to recommend disciplinary action and one that is fully staffed and funded,” said Ginther.

The role of Inspector General would look more broadly at the policies and models of the ministry, rather than individual cases.

Kyle Strickland, senior legal analyst at Ohio State’s Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, lobbied for the council even before he was assigned to the task force. He says many details are still being worked out.

“We’re going to recommend things like the size of this review committee, also making sure it’s representative of the community, how to make sure it’s representative of the community, how are members appointed to the committee? Said Strickland.

Credit Nick Evans / WOSU

Mayor Andrew Ginther on September 8, 2020. Ginther proposed the creation of a Civilian Review Board to oversee the police service.

Negotiate with the police union

Much of the board’s scope and powers will likely be decided in high-stakes negotiations with the police union. Columbus will renegotiate the Fraternal Order of Police contract when it expires at the end of the year, which may limit what the board can do.

Ginther says there have been conflicts between the union and the city on this front.

“There are members of the FOP and the FOP leadership who want to protect the status quo and don’t want things to change,” says Ginther.

In 2017, the FOP unanimously approved a vote of “no confidence” in Ginther, the director of public safety Ned Pettus and the president of the city council at the time, Zach Klein, who is now the city attorney. . The vote of “no confidence” came in response to Ginther’s comments about Zachary Rosen, a Columbus officer fired for “unreasonable force” after hack a suspect held in the head. The ministry then reinstated Rosen after the union calls on an arbitrator.

WOSU has contacted the Fraternal Order of Police for comment, but the union has not responded with the story being released.

In one July declaration, the FOP criticized Ginther for suing the Civil Review Board through a ballot.

“It is unfortunate that Mayor Ginther feels the need to waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars or their time on a charter amendment,” the statement said. “We welcome the dialogue and using the collective bargaining process to move forward for everyone, but Mayor Ginther is not ready to compromise. Mayor Ginther is ready to attack collective bargaining rights, outright. “

At a press conference in August, union president Keith Ferrell said they had worked with other jurisdictions, such as Reynoldsbourg, on civil review boards.

“Reynoldsburg has created a Citizen Review Board. They came to the lodge, the lodge was receptive, ”Ferrell said. “We sat down and worked on these things. So we are ready to communicate with anyone who wishes to communicate with us. The Council has been receptive. We appreciate this.

The nine-member panel proposed by Reynoldsburg differs from the Columbus proposal in several ways. It will be primarily responsible for cases of discrimination, but may initiate investigations into incidents of use of force. While it has subpoena power, it is somewhat limited – a major sticking point for proponents of reform in Columbus. The board is also prohibited from drafting disciplinary recommendations, even if it determines that a complaint is justified.

During the press conference, Ferrell said he would approach the city of Columbus with the same open-mindedness.

“We will continue the dialogue and help,” Ferrell said. “Even when we don’t agree on everything, it’s important. And that’s leadership, and that’s what we need.

Columbus Police observe protests against police violence on June 2, 2020.

Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Columbus Police observe protests against police violence on June 2, 2020.

Ginther says they have been in contact, but so far these discussions have come to naught.

Strickland says he’s excited about the responsibility a civilian review board might introduce, but that more action is needed upstream for true police reform.

“It’s often reactive, and we need to make sure we do more to make sure we can recognize any sort of systematic abuse of power or systematic misconduct before these issues arise,” Strickland said.

Columbus City Council voted on such a measure that would have restricted police use of screening officers like tear gas.

Advance voting is already underway in the state and polling day is November 3.

If number 2 is adopted, the working group hopes to have a council by the end of the year.

Below is the full text of the number 2 ballot:

Should the City of Columbus Charter be amended to read as follows: The proposed charter amendment calls on voters to establish a Civilian Police Review Board. Council members will be chosen to reflect the diversity of the city of Columbus. This council, independent of the Police Division and headed and staffed by civilians, will have the power to receive and investigate complaints of officer misconduct. The council will have the power – with few exceptions based on state law, federal law and employment contracts – to subpoena testimony and evidence during an investigation.

The board will also have the power to file complaints and recommend resolutions to complaints and investigations, including discipline. The charter amendment requires the Police Division to provide council with records requested by council during an investigation, with some exceptions. Sufficient, consistent and annual funding for the board and its operations, including staff, is included in the charter amendment as well as a prohibition on cutting the board’s budget disproportionately compared to others. budget cuts. If budget cuts are made to the board, a specific cause must be provided.

The Board of Directors will develop rules that will govern its work and develop a procedure for how complaints are investigated. The amendment to the charter also creates a department independent of the Inspector General of the Police Division. The Civilian Police Review Board will reside within that ministry and the Inspector General will be both appointed and headed by the board?

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