Commission Urges Independent Review Board For Columbus Police

Jan 30, 2020

The city's Community Safety Advisory Commission says that Columbus Police should establish an independent civilian review board to oversee any investigations into officer use-of-force, police shootings, citizen complaints and misconduct.

The commission presented its recommendations to Mayor Andrew Ginther on Thursday. Their final report is 119 pages long and lists 80 recommendations concerning training new officers, preventing bias and improving accountability in the police department.

Community activists have pushed the idea of a civilian review board for years, following the fatal police shootings of 13-year-old Tyre King and 23-year-old Henry Green in 2016. The Community Safety Advisory Commission says the board should be diverse, professionally-staffed and independent of the department, and must be able to participate in any criminal or administrative investigations into police personnel.

"We understand this recommendation to be extremely complex and requires time to research, benchmark and review," the report reads.

The mayor put together the commission in 2018 to review and recommend improvements for Columbus Police training and procedures. Seventeen members serve on the commission, which worked on the report over the course of 18 months.

Commissioner Tammy Fournier Alsaada says she and her co-authors are cautiously optimistic about the results.

“We don't expect that all 80 of these recommendations will be implemented, but I do believe it's important that we prioritize what are the most important things necessary to bring about real transformation,” Alsaada says. 

The report urges Columbus Police to move its recruitment unit to the bureau of Human Resources and be taken off patrol duties, with an increased budget and staff. It lays out ways to improve recruiting and mentoring of women, minority and LGBTQ officers, including adding civilian liaisons within the recruiting division.

“My priority has always been and continues to be accountability," Alsaada says. "We cannot continue to allow a force like the division of police department to be an unchecked block of power, by recognizing in the black community we're policed the most."

One recommendation would require Columbus Police officers sign a "Morality Clause" that agrees to "equal protection for all citizens, to denounce any cultural supremacist groups, and to report any officer's malfeasance to Internal Affairs."

When it comes to training, the commission says the Columbus Police Academy must add language that "specifically address citizen's individual civil rights, including First Amendment rights and the right to protest, specifically relating to non-aggressive police tactics for non-violent protests/marches."

The report recommends the Academy require training on de-escalation tactics, implicit bias and racism, and expand its curriculum on the history of policing. It also recommends youth-specific policies to ensure officers respond appropriately to minors, and encourages the city to eliminate Ohio's "felony murder" statute.

Finally, the commission urges Columbus to track their recommendations in the police department’s annual report.

“The mayor said that his intention is to not allow this to be just a report, but that we begin to implement these things,” Alsaada says.

Ginther says he planned to allow the commission to continue running, although their duties moving forward have not yet been determined.

The city says the division has already started putting some suggestions into practice, including a diversity effort that focuses on mentoring.