Columbus residents strongly approved the creation of a Civilian Review Board to carry out independent investigations of police misconduct, as well as the appointment of an inspector general for the Columbus Division of Police. With 100% of precincts reporting on election night, a clear majority voted in favor of the issue.
For months, thousands of people in Columbus took to the streets calling for police reform. That movement carried over to the polls, says Mayor Andrew Ginther.
"For the first time, Columbus residents were able to vote on police reform, and they have spoken overwhelmingly and very loudly and clearly," Ginther says.
Columbus was one of the largest cities in the country without a civilian review board, even though activists have long called for its creation.
Nick Bankston ran the Yes to Issue 2 campaign, and he says George Floyd’s death and the protests in Columbus were the tipping point for passing police reform.
"This was a pain that was not only felt by the African American and Black community that we’ve felt for years, but it was something that our brothers and sisters in the dominant culture and in the white community stepped up and said, 'This is wrong,'" Bankston says.
A 2019 independent review of Columbus Police known as the Matrix Report found that officers disproportionately used force against minority residents, and this January, a Community Safety Advisory Commission established by Ginther put the review board at the top of its list of recommendations for police reform.
“Issue 2 will hold law enforcement accountable and puts power in the hands of civilians to investigate allegations of police use of force, so that we can hold bad officers accountable and keep our community safe,” Bankston says.
The review board and the inspector general will be embedded in the city’s charter. That means if a future elected official wants to get rid of it, they cannot do so without voter approval.
However, some aspects of the civilian review board have yet to be decided – or are currently prohibited by the police union contract, which is being renegotiated this year. In July, the Fraternal Order of Police criticized Ginther for pursuing the Civilian Review Board through a ballot issue.
"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 read. "We welcome dialogue and to use the collective bargaining process to move forward for everyone, but Mayor Ginther is not out to compromise. Mayor Ginther is out to attack collective bargaining rights, plain and simple."
Ginther hopes that the FOP will listen to the voters when they negotiate the contract. The FOP could not be reached for comment.
"I think it’s really important to have the will of the people with me and the administration at the bargaining table," Ginther says. "We’re going to negotiate in good faith, as we do through all our collective bargaining agreements."
Ginther has named a 16-person working group to further define how the review board would work. That group will meet November 10 to finalize details to get the review board officially in place.