September 2021

Columbus Urban League, YWCA to co-host virtual discussion on community, police relations

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
By Bethany Bruner
September 13, 2021

Columbus will play host on Wednesday to the first of three virtual panel discussions to be held nationally on building restored trust between the community and police.

The forum will be held online between 7 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, livestreamed from the Lincoln Theater and co-hosted by the Columbus Urban League and YWCA Columbus.

The panel is one of three nationwide sponsored by the National Urban League to discuss rebuilding trust, one of the 21 pillars of the National Urban League’s platform for criminal justice reform.

Wednesday’s event will include a panel of national experts, including Cedric Alexander, a national policing expert, who will share ideas customized for Columbus.

Panel will have Columbus focus

Local panelists will include Columbus police Chief Elaine Bryant; Janet Jackson, chair of the Columbus Civilian Police Review Board; Victor Davis, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church on the Near East Side; and Sean Walton, a local civil rights attorney who is one of the leading members of the Columbus Police Accountability Project. Walton has also represented families of people killed by police.

The panel will be moderated by WBNS-10TV’s Andrew Kinsey, and the event will be available for the public to view on livestream through 10TV’s YouTube channel.

Columbus was apparently chosen to host one of the panel discussions because of ongoing community relations issues between city residents and its Division of Police.

On Thursday, Mayor Andrew Ginther announced the U.S. Department of Justice had accepted a request from the mayor and City Attorney Zach Klein to conduct a comprehensive review of the police division’s training and practices with an eye on racial bias.

Klein said this review will be different than reviews done by DOJ in other cities — such as the investigation into Minneapolis police in the wake of the George Floyd Jr. murder — and will be a way to gain expertise from across the country on best practices.

The DOJ has agreed to come into Columbus as part of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office and it does not currently involve any litigation.

Police Chief Elaine Bryant said the DOJ will be working on “potential focus opportunities,” including reviewing policies, officer training, technology and an early warning system to try and identify officers who may be in need of services prior to a critical incident taking place.

Some are critical of federal review of Columbus police

Attorney Sean Walton, a founding member of the Columbus Police Accountability Project (CPAP) who has represented families of Blacks killed by police, criticized the focus of the DOJ review and said it “does not address the wrongs that have been inflicted upon the citizens of Columbus for years and does not lead to accountability for such bad acts.”

Walton called the DOJ’s planned involvement an “egregious misstep and missed opportunity.”

Theodore Decker: In police reform, consent decree isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be

Columbus police have been involved in a number of high-profile incidents in the last 18 months that has brought criticism from the community, particularly Black residents, while others have stood with police for their response to some protests that turned violent and resulted in vandalism and property damage.

In December, former Columbus police officer Adam Coy shot and killed Andre Hill, a 47-year-old unarmed Black man, inside a garage on the Northwest Side. Coy was later fired by Columbus police and has been indicted on charges of murder and reckless homicide. His request for a change of venue has been denied and he is expected to face trial next year.

Responding to a 911 call about an attempted stabbing in April, Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant outside a foster home on the Southeast Side. Bryant had a knife in her hand and appeared to be swinging it at a young woman holding a dog at the time he fatally shot her, according to body camera released by police. The case remains under review by the Franklin County prosecutor’s office.

Also in April, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley granted a preliminary injunction against Columbus police in a lawsuit filed by more than two dozen protesters related to allegations of inappropriate and excessive police force during protests that occurred Downtown in late May and early June 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd Jr. in Minneapolis.

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