Report Finds Racial Disparities In Columbus Police Use Of Force, Public Perception

Aug 21, 2019

Columbus Police disproportionately use force against black suspects, according to a department-wide review released by the city Wednesday. The study also found wide racial disparities in the public perception of police.

The 300-page report, commissioned by the city of Columbus and conducted by independent firm Matrix Consulting, tackles topics ranging from community policing strategies to staffing levels.

The study found that from 2014-2017, officers used force more than 400 times a year. Force was used against black people approximately twice as often as against white people.

In 2017, the most recent year in which data was available, 51% of the department’s use-of-force cases involved black people. About 26% of use-of-force cases involved white people.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 28% of Columbus residents are black, compared to 60.5% white.

The report found that the overall perception of the division was favorable, with 75% saying the relationship was very or somewhat positive. That number dipped to 59% for black respondents.

Mayor Andrew Ginther addressed the report in a press conference Wednesday afternoon. He says the department will consider new officer deployment strategies.

“This may include reducing or eliminating the number of two-person patrol units, making sure sergeants are able to respond to the scenes, and civilianizing some jobs currently held by uniform officers,” Ginther said.

The report also found more than 50% percent of black employees had experienced discrimination, and that special assignments and promotions were based too heavily on seniority, compared to merit. The report also found that bias based on gender and sexual orientation are issues as well.

"This is a step in the right direction towards taking responsibility and taking action to build a police operation that protects and respects all residents," said Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin in a statement Wednesday.

Matrix Consulting Group president Richard Brady says Columbus Police are spending on average 20% or less of their time being proactive, but that officers should be spending up to 40% of their time engaging with the community.

"There are going to be issues with the police division being more proactive because they don't have enough time to do it," Brady says. "They are spending most of their time literally going from call to call. "

Other recommendations laid out in the study include increasing de-escalation training and adopting an early warning and prevention program, reducing the Mounted Unit from seven to four officers, adding two additional detectives to the core domestic violence investigative unit.

Ginther added that he wants the city to focus more on officer wellness.

“More officers die by their own hand than by the hands of criminals,” he said.

Ginther said he will form an implementation committee to enact the report’s recommendations in the next few weeks.