April 2021

Columbus City Council approves Police Review Board members; split on controversial nominee

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
By Bill Bush
April 26, 2021

The Columbus City Council on Monday seated new members of the Civilian Police Review Board, though they split over one nominee whose social-media post last week said there was no need to wait for the facts on the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant by a Columbus police officer.

Kyle Strickland, 30, posted on his personal Facebook account Wednesday that in the case of the fatal shooting the day before: “do not let anyone tell you to ‘wait for all the facts’ while they simultaneously frame their own narrative of what occurred. We’ve seen this story before. Over and over again.”

Kyle Strickland: Police review board nominee’s Facebook post on Ma’Khia Bryant shooting raises questions

Council members voted unanimously to approve every other member of the panel, including two new ones added at the last minute in addition to the nine names nominated by Mayor Andrew J. Ginther last month.

The city charter change approved by voters last year requires an odd number of members, but doesn’t specify how many.

In the case of Strickland, the vote was 5-2, with the two departing board members who withdrew from the November election and said this month that they will retire at the end of this year, Mitchell Brown and Priscilla Tyson, voting no.

The Bryant shooting may come before the board.

Council member Elizabeth Brown said that if the goal is to create trust in the system, people must be allowed “to speak their truth and have their passions.”

Member Shayla Favor said it was sad that the review board’s creation has been distracted by “those who disagree with Mr. Strickland’s post,” which contained views she said Strickland is entitled to have.

But member Mitchell Brown said that, while he appreciates people being passionate, “impartiality and objectivity is absolutely unequivocally imperative.” And if Review Board members talk about a pending case before hearing and deciding it, he told Strickland, “that in my opinion excludes you.”

Tyson said she is concerned that a panel member would express personal thoughts on a pending case, because “we want to be viewed that we’re a fair body” that will hear all the evidence before making up minds.

Three members of the public spoke in favor of Strickland’s appointment during the virtual meeting, including Strickland work associate at the Ohio State University Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Kelly Capatosto, a senior data and policy specialist.

Strickland is a Harvard-trained lawyer, Capatosto said, and it would be a “considerable mistake if unfounded perceptions, misconceptions, over a few lines of text on social media get to define this narrative”

“Right now, the rest of the country is watching Columbus, Ohio,” Capatosto said. “…Let’s not lose sight of that big picture.”

Strickland, an attorney at the Kirwin Institute, didn’t speak at the meeting. He had also said in the controversial post: “In America, Black people are killed by police and then blamed for their own deaths. We saw this with George Floyd, and it’s why one conviction won’t stop this cycle from continuing with other victims. We already see it happening today.

“Ma’Khia Bryant was a child. She was shot and killed by Columbus police. She should be alive today.”

In police bodycam video released the evening of the fatal shooting, Bryant appeared to be assaulting a female with a knife. The deadly incident unfolded in seconds after police arrived at the scene.

Also appointed to the panel were: Janet Jackson, 68, of Berwick; Chenelle Jones, 37, of the Northeast Side;  Mark Fluharty, 57, of Reynoldsburg; Willard McIntosh, 56, of Berwick; Rich Nathan, 65, of Westerville; Randall Sistrunk, 38, of the Southeast Side; Charles Tatum, 65, of Berwick; Mary Younger, 72, of German Village.

Added to those nine members were: Aaron Thomas, who works at the OSU College of Medicine helping to recruit historically underrepresented candidates for the program, and Brooke Burns, a juvenile public defender.

Thomas is the only LGBTQ nominee to the Review Board.

“One thing that the people of Columbus are asking for is representation,” he said. “They’re looking for people with similar backgrounds as them, people who may not be necessarily connected into the system of Columbus, but are just general members of the community, and I do believe that I represent that well.”

Burns said she also works with two nonprofit groups that serve under-resourced communities and is committed to a more-just legal system.

“I applied for the board because in my work as a participant in the legal system, I know that more often than not a person’s introduction to this system starts with an encounter with law enforcement,” Burns said. “…Whether those actions are perceived as fair can have an impact on outcomes in our system.”

Hardin said the two were added to “improve the perspective and diversity” the Review Board.

In other business Monday, council:

• Approved a $1 million contract Williams Architects to design a replacement for two aging city swimming pools, the city’s Glenwood and Windsor facilities. Glenwood is at the base of the Hilltop in Glenwood Park, near where I-70 crosses West Broad Street, and Windsor is in South Linden.

The funds will come from a federal Housing and Urban Development Community Block Grant, with the design to be completed by November 2021 and construction started this winter, keeping the impact to the swimming season to a minimum.

• Approved a contract with the Columbus Urban League to help administer $3 million of the $26.8 million in federal emergency rental assistance awarded Columbus in February. The agreement calls for at least 60% of the funding go to support households with an “area median income” at 50% or below ($42,100 for a family of four) and/or have a member of the household who has been unemployed for 90 days. Up to 40% of the funding can be used for households with an AMI at 80% or below ($67,350 for a family of four), while 10% of the funding will be administrative costs.

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