Columbus City Council held a meeting Monday to outline its public safety plans ahead of budget deliberations.
“What we’re doing today is kicking off that process, that deep dive into the mayor’s budget, and inviting the public to be part of how they view public safety,” said Council president Shannon Hardin.
In the proposed annual budget unveiled by Mayor Andrew Ginther earlier this month, the Columbus Division of Police saw a slight decrease of $20 million, something that police reform activists called a "tiny baby step."
Columbus City Council members emphasized the need for civilian, non-police teams to respond to certain emergencies. That would include scaling up two pilot programs: The Mobile Response Unit for mental health crises, and an addiction response team called Rapid Response Emergency Addiction and Crisis Teams, or RREACT.
Council is also prioritizing ample funding for police accountability measures, like the new Civilian Review Board that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in the election. And their third area of focus is violence prevention, which comes as the year surpassed 2017 as the city's most violent year on record.
“These three pillars will guide our budget process,” Hardin says. “It’s also important to note that one can’t separate public safety from critical investments in our operating budget like affordable housing, pre-K, college access, transit and more.”
City Council will be hiring an outside group to make sure that all residents – especially those impacted by violence – are involved in the budget revision process.
“We can’t have a conversation about making every resident safe without addressing the economic insecurity impacting Columbus families,” says Council president pro tem Elizabeth Brown. “Through our review of the 2021 budget, we are committed to addressing the needs of families as a strategy to reduce and prevent violence.”
Columbus Police and the Fraternal Order of Police did not respond to immediate requests for comment.