June 2020

Columbus city leaders discuss efforts to confront racism, inequality in the community

Courtesy of FOX28/ABC6
June 11, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — At the ABC6 ‘Voices for Change’ Town Hall Thursday, city leaders discussed efforts they are working on to confront racism, inequality and more in the community after protests began about two weeks ago in Columbus, following the death of George Floyd.

We heard time and time again: the time to talk is over.

A lot of the discussion focused on police reform, like looking at a greater focus on community policing efforts and recruiting a more diverse force.

“The image of seeing George Floyd call out for his mother and to take his last breath on video, enough is enough, the talk has to be over,” said Robert “Bo” Chilton, CEO of Impact Community Action.

Community and civic leaders like Chilton took on questions from anchors and the community during the “Voices for Change” Town Hall.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther was asked if he can guarantee the budget needed to facilitate additional training and community policing efforts.

“There is not a higher priority for the people of Columbus than to have a Division of Police that they have confidence and trust in and that means that reform must happen. It must happen now and it must be resourced,” said Ginther.

He said the city needs teachers, faith leaders and all kinds of people to work on these issues.

He gave an update on the status of the now-promised civilian review board.

“We are going to form a group by July 1 of community leaders, stakeholders to look at best practices from around the country and we will seek the civilian review board by the end of the year. We want the best model. We want best practices,” he said.

Columbus Urban League President and CEO Stephanie Hightower sent in a question, asking about a timeline for implementing recommendations already in the safety committee report and if the public will be alerted.

Police Chief Thomas Quinlan said some recommendations have already been implemented, promising a dashboard in the next 60 days for people to see the status of those recommendations for reform.

“We are committed by the end of the year, these came out in February, by the end of the year we would like to have all of 80 implemented or a path forward on each one of those,” said Quinlan.

City Council President Shannon Hardin also addressed the need he said for change when it comes to the civil service process to become a police officer, for example.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to put such weight on credit checks and those types of things if we are really trying to bring folks in. So one, I think we have to recruit more, bring more folks to the table. But, we also have to open the hood and look to see if there are structural issues with our hiring practices that would prohibit folks from coming in,” said Hardin.

In some closing words from Hardin, he said if any community can solve these kinds of problems, it is Columbus.

The mayor said he has charged the safety director with increasing the number of officers and firefighters of color and women serving.

The police chief said the division is learning and changing, and they want diverse voices on the force and in the conversation.

By Haley Nelson

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