July 2020

Retired FBI agent will investigate CPD for criminal use-0f-force complaints

Courtesy of ABC 6/FOX 28
July 1, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) β€” A retired FBI agent and a major national law firm will investigate dozens of complaints against the Columbus Division of Police, for use-of-force issues during downtown protests in May and June.

Baker Hostetler, founded in Cleveland, will investigate 40 incidents that were submitted to the city and may have violated the Division’s administrative policy. Those incidents could result in administrative discipline against officers. An unnamed former FBI official will additionally review 16 incidents, which may constitute criminal activity and result in legal charges against officers.

Columbus Police faced scrutiny for their use of pepper spray at the protests, even after Ginther said chemical irritants would not be used on peaceful protesters. The mayor has said at least some of the recent pepper spraying was justified because officers’ health and safety were endangered.

Mayor Andrew Ginther made the announcements during a news conference Wednesday, saying the hiring of investigators from outside the city is “important for the public to have trust and confidence that these…are going to be independent investigations.”

“It’s critically important in all times, but particularly in times like these, that you follow through and act on what you’ve committed to do for reform,” Ginther said.

β€œI have seen images and videos over the last several weeks that disturb me – including the pepper-spraying of non-violent activists, media and elected officials,” Ginther said. β€œOur Department of Public Safety have been reviewing hundreds of complaints, and it is now time to send them for independent evaluation.”

On June 1, Ginther set up a hotline for people to send complaints, videos, and photos regarding the handling of the protests. He said Wednesday that more incidents submitted to that hotline are still under initial investigation, and will likely be forwarded to the investigators.

Ginther also announced a work group to structure a Civilian Review Board, which he plans to seat by the end of 2020. The group includes:

Jasmine Ayres, community organizer, Peoples Justice Project
Fred Benton, attorney
Bo Chilton, President and CEO, Impact Community Action
Dr. Lewis Dodley, IMPACT Community Action
Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO of Columbus Urban League
Pastor Frederick LaMarr, President, Baptist Pastors Conference
Kent Markus, General/Bar Counsel, Columbus Bar Association
Jonathan McCombs, Dean of College of Health and Public Administration, Franklin University
Ismail Mohammad, attorney, Ismail Law Office
Densil R. Porteous, Chair, Create Columbus
Aslyne Rodriguez, Director of Government Affairs, COTA
Janay Stevens, President, John Mercer Langston Bar Association, Associate, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP
Kyle Strickland, Senior Legal Analyst, Kirwin Institute
Erin Synk, Director of Government Relations, LNE Group
Nana Watson, President, NAACP Columbus
Anthony Wilson, Vice President National Organization of Black Law Enforcement – Columbus Chapter

β€œIn creating this workgroup, I selected subject matter experts and key community stakeholders who will help guide important decisions including how the board will be seated, how it will operate and what powers will be afforded to the board.”

Ginther said during the news conference the eventual Civilian Review Board must have subpoena and investigative powers. He also acknowledged that the Fraternal Order of Police union, which represents Columbus Police, is not among the members of the work group designing the Review Board.

Ginther said that is by design.

“I think law enforcement’s perspective is very important, but the FOP is not running this process,” he said. “They’re not in charge; they’re not calling the shots anymore about how we police.

“This is a Civilian Review Board; this is not a Police Review Board where they’re simply going to be policing one another,” Ginther said.

On Tuesday, City Council met to discuss demilitarizing the police force amid the protests. Asked about it, Ginther said he supports a review of the Division of Police equipment, but drew a line.

“I’m not going to stand by and let officers be at risk or endangered, because they don’t have resources they need,” Ginther said. “I do believe we can police differently, but the people of this city have been clear with me: they want the police.”

Council holds hearing on “demilitarizing” Columbus Police; community, police weigh in

There was an impassioned and lengthy talk about the future of policing in Columbus Tuesday night. “Council I ask you to do the right thing, because I am afraid and the community is afraid,” said one community member. Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown held a virtual finance hearing to discuss “demilitarizing” the Columbus Division of Police.

ABC 6/FOX 28 will continue to follow the latest on police reform in Columbus.

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