Mayor Andrew Ginther on Wednesday said the city is referring 56 Columbus Police incidents to third parties for possible administrative or criminal charges.
Last month, Ginther announced a new system to receive and review complaints outside of the police chain-of-command, following criticism over the treatment of protesters by Columbus officers.
Columbus has so far referred 40 police complaints to the law firm BakerHostetler, which regularly handles the city's contract negotiations, to determine if officers should be departmentally charged for violating internal policy.
Another 16 complaints have been referred to a retired FBI agent to review for possible criminal charges. Ginther said the agent, who he did not name, was chosen because of their experience and independence from local law enforcement.
If any of those incidents are seen fit for criminal charges, the mayor says that Columbus may contemplate an independent prosecutor, to help restore confidence and trust in the process.
Ginther did not specify the details of those complaints. Other incidents are still being reviewed by the Department of Public Safety and the Internal Affairs Bureau, and will likely be forwarded to investigators.
Alongside Public Safety Director Ned Pettus, Ginther also announced the members of a working group tasked with helping create a Civilian Review Board, which will examine police misconduct and use-of-force cases. The working group is comprised of local lawyers, nonprofit leaders, and advocates from Stonewall Columbus, the Columbus Urban League and the NAACP.
Ginther said the working group will look at various review board models from around the country and determine which Columbus should adopt. More than 200 police departments across the U.S. have civilian review boards, including 80% of the top 50 largest cities.
WOSU found that review boards can vary widely in their form and effectiveness, but Ginther says he'll insist that Columbus' "must have subpoena power and the strongest investigative powers under the law."
Ginther reiterated his calls for the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents many of the city's law enforcement, to support the board's creation. Although such police oversight is barred under the union's current contract, Ginther said the FOP is not in charge of the reform process.
"They're not calling the shots anymore about how we police, where we're headed as a community," Gither said.
Ginther also criticized the police union for spending time and money to defend fired and disciplined officers, saying the "FOP has zero credibility in this community."
The mayor said the board will be seated by the end of the year. Members of the working group include:
- Jasmine Ayres of the People's Justice Project
- Fred Benton, attorney
- Bo Chilton, IMPACT Community Action president and CEO
- Dr. Lewis Dodley of IMPACT Community Action
- Stephanie Hightower, Columbus Urban League president and CEO
- Pastor Frederick LaMarr, Baptist Pastors Conference president
- Kent Markus, Columbus Bar Association general counsel
- Jonathan McCombs, Franklin University College of Health and Public Administration dean
- Ismail Mohammed, Ismail Law Office attorney
- Densil R. Porteous, Creat Columbus chair
- Aslyne Rodriguez, COTA director of government affairs
- Janay Stevens, John Mercer Langston Bar Association president
- Kyle Strickland, Kirwin Institute senior legal analyst
- Erin Synk, LNE Group director of government relations
- Nana Watson, NAACP Columbus president
- Anthony Wilson, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Columbus chapter vice president
Even as he increases pressure on the FOP, Ginther continues to defend against criticism of the police department and Chief Tom Quinlan. At the same time, he's moved to adopt police reforms like the #8CantWait proposals, and issued an executive order requiring all fatal police use-of-force cases and deaths in police custody to be referred to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
On Tuesday night, Columbus City Council held a six-hour hearing on removing military-grade equipment from the Division of Police.