News

November 2021

Letter to the Editor: An Open Letter to Those Who Oppose Police Reform

Courtesy of Columbus Underground
November 10, 2021

Dear police reform opposition,

It has been a year and a half since the murder of George Floyd, sparking national outcry and a call for police reform. What occurred in 2020 sent shockwaves throughout our country, and our city of Columbus was not exempt from its impact. What was different this time? How were these calls for change different from those of the past? Many who were sleeping on racial injustice woke up to a hard truth surrounding policing in our communities. Their eyes were opened to see that these issues did not only live on social media or happen in other communities. Racial injustice and unrest were happening right in their own backyards. Our community had enough.

Casey Goodson and Andre Hill. Almost a year ago, police officers shot and killed these two Black men right here in Columbus. Their deaths were the catalyst for the passage of Andre’s Law over eight months ago – one of the first attempts at “police reform” in Columbus.

With the CPD’s recent induction of the new chief, Chief Elaine Bryant, comes hope for this overdue accountability. The culture of CPD has historically left police officers with little to no fear of accountability, and the division has a track record of reinstating police officers with excessive force complaints into other positions within the division. In recent public talks given by Chief Bryant, the division’s first Black woman chief and external hire, has made it clear that reforms are a top priority and cooperation is key. She has noted that one of her top initiatives is developing diversity within the division in order for it to reflect the communities it serves and increase cultural awareness – including recruiting more officers who grew up in Columbus and want to help improve their communities. The Chief also wants to increase the division’s chaplain corps as well as improve technology to better address crime in real time.

However, there are certainly different ideas about how to change the culture of Columbus’ police division. While the Chief has publicly expressed the importance of investing in relationships and conversation between the division and the community, calls for accountability through policy change, reallocation of funding to other services, and divestment prove to be a hefty challenge. So, the question begs to be asked: Can meaningful reform take place within Columbus’ police division without significant accountability and policy change?

While city officials favor measures that would expand and clarify the role of Columbus’ new civilian-run police oversight board, there are several activist groups putting pressure on police reform and officer accountability. Advocates and organizations including ACLU of Ohio, Columbus NAACP, Columbus Urban League, and Policy Matters Ohio are focusing on justice and police reform, and were integral in the Department of Justice investigation into the CPD. And recently, YWCA Columbus and key stakeholders published a Policing Primer, a living document exploring the history of policing and how we can create a future of safety for all. Are these measures enough?

We ask our community – those who may oppose police reform – to wake up and recognize the change that needs to happen with the CPD. We encourage you to get involved locally, call your elected officials, and support local organizations fighting for police reform. This is not a conversation or action that should be done by just the Black community, but the entire community. We need to work together on reform in order to make our community a better place. Now is not the time to shy away from the conversation, but to embrace one another and find a solution.

Signed:

Brittney Connors-Caldwell
Cassie Ferguson
Becca Meacham
DaiJhah Owens
Linzey Rice

These five women met through and are a part of the YWCA Leadership for Social Change 2021 Cohort. Through this initiative, they believe it is their responsibility to educate their communities on social justice issues – including the importance of standing together on police reform.