June 24, 2020
The death of
George Floyd was a modern day lynching – and I am outraged at his death and the
countless other black men and women who have died at the hands of the police.
I am furious
that in 2020 we are fighting the same battles, for the same causes, that our
parents and grandparents marched for over 50 years ago.
I have been
very clear that I believe racism exists in every facet of our culture. This is not unique to Columbus. Unfortunately—it
elements that deny racism exists -- including some within the Division of
Police. Some in our community feel protected; others feel policed.
people with the Division who aren’t interested in change, who will seek to
But I know
racism exists and that police brutality against black and brown people exist.
incompetent office worker gets fired.
attorney gets disbarred
trained surgeon faces a malpractice suit or loses their license.
But at the
hands of a racist, rogue police officer people die.
I am fighting
to deal with it head on . . . and I will not accept the status quo.
I have been
fighting for police reform since Day One of my first term.
- Implemented body-worn cameras;
- Committed to increase the diversity
of police by 50% and advanced extensive recruitment strategies. Our last three
classes have been the most diverse and highest scoring in a decade.
- Formed the Comprehensive Neighborhood
Safety Strategy to address crime not just with law enforcement but with Columbus
Public Health and the Department of Neighborhoods.
- Required more police officers to
undergo Crisis Intervention Training.
- Received the recommendations on
reform from the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission and Matrix
Consulting – an independent third-party firm to study the Columbus Division of
all steps in the right direction, but we know there is much more to do.
Like you, I
have seen images and videos over the last several weeks that disturb me –
including the pepper spraying of non-violent activists, media and elected
Let me be
clear: Some of these images and videos don’t live up to my expectations, or our
community’s expectations – of police, and of each other.
with our neighbors, activists or other elected leaders have informed our
response, and every decision I make as we work to navigate these unprecedented
times. We are, and we will get through this together, stronger and better for
years, I have talked to a lot of people from a lot of neighborhoods about what
they want and need from their city.
residents say they felt left out of the prosperity of Columbus . . . and they
told me that my job as mayor is to close the divide. Those opinions led to what
are now my top priorities – The Equity Agenda, an agenda that calls out racism
and discrimination where it exists and my plans to address it. But what does
that really mean?
- It means reducing infant mortality by
making sure black babies reach their first birthday and beyond;
- It means ensuring access to high-quality
pre k, regardless of your zip code;
- It means working to reduce evictions
where we know black mothers are disproportionately impacted; and increasing the
availability of affordable housing;
- It means creating more opportunities
for black owned and women owned businesses to have equal access to city
- It means connecting residents to good
paying careers in the trades; and
- It means ensuring our residents feel
safe wherever they go . . . including their interactions with police – because
there is no greater inequity than the brutality that can happen at the hands of
been a year like no other we’ve ever seen.
A pandemic that caused a health crisis, a human services crisis and an
economic crisis . . . plus civil unrest.
But even with its unprecedented challenges, I see opportunity. I’m inspired by the urgent voices that have
been raised . . . the emergence of new leaders . . . of young people and the
outcry for change.
Real change. Not talk. Not promises. But action . . .
I want to
thank all of the individuals and groups who made time to meet with me over the
last couple of weeks. Sometimes difficult,
yet meaningful conversations with students, activists, parents, officers,
members of the LGBTQ, faith and business have led to the following concrete
steps we've taken:
- We signed on to former President
Barack Obama’s Mayoral Pledge and committed to review, engage, report and
reform common-sense limits on police use of force.
- I signed an executive order that
implements landmark reform to mandate independent, third party investigations
by the Bureau of Criminal Investigations into police-involved deaths.
- I directed Chief Quinlan to stop
using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse non-violent, non-aggressive crowds.
- We seated the Chief’s Advisory Panel
to guide Chief Quinlan in policy changes.
- And we signed on to 8 Can’t Wait,
committing to 8 data-driven reforms to instill more restrictive use-of-force
policies within the police.
- I committed to set up a Civilian
Review Board with meaningful oversight authority by the end of the year.
- And we will hire an independent
investigator to review the overall response to protests since the end of May.
I will take
more action in the coming days and weeks. We must continue to build on the
already overwhelming community support to enact change that is significant,
substantial and swift.
We are working
now to continue to implement the changes by the Safety Advisory Commission and
the Matrix report – for better recruiting, training and accountability of police
officers. And we will soon have a public facing tracking system so residents
can see the progress we are making at anytime, in real time.
We have made
some missteps, too – I made some, and so did the police. Progress is messy.
Mistakes will be made. It is critical that we own the mistakes we make, learn
from them and pivot to solutions.
I set up a
hotline outside of the chain of command of police to investigate community
complaints. All of the complaints are being reviewed by the Department of Public
Safety and a faith leader. For the first time, we will hire an independent law
firm to investigate the complaints that may deserve administrative discipline .
. . and a separate law enforcement
entity – outside of the Columbus Division of Police – to review those
complaints that may demand criminal charges.
cameras have turned out to be an excellent tool in holding the police and the
city accountable. But the protests of the last few weeks showed their
limitations. We are working to correct this so that cameras can always be worn
I know how
important the Civilian Review Board is to the community – it is to me, too. We
will have a work group formed next week to shape our Review Board. And I am
calling on the FOP to be part of the process the community demands. But with or
without you, we will establish a Civilian Review Board by the end of the year.
We are on a
path to move from 20th century law enforcement to 21st century community
policing – from an old model of policing to a new model that protects every
resident. And we are creating a city that fights racism and discrimination . .
. and builds equity.
This is not
a solo journey. All of us have a role to play, and I’m calling on each of you:
- To our police officers: many of you
entered into this profession to protect and serve . . . many of you work
tirelessly every day to do just that and to build meaningful relationships with
our residents. To those officers - keep serving admirably. And if you see other
officers using excessive force or outdated training methods, intervene
immediately. To those officers who do not serve our community in the ways we
expect, we do not have room for you in the Columbus Division of Police and you
will be held accountable.
- To the FOP: Be part of the solution.
Be part of the reform our community is demanding, starting by helping with the
formation of a Civilian Review Board. You’re either with us or against…I hope
you will be with us.
- To other elected officials – at the
federal, state and local level: Change at all levels is needed. Work with me to make change.
- To young people: Keep lifting your
voices in the classroom, in your neighborhood and even at the ballot box.
Register to vote -- and exercise your right to vote.
- To media: Keep reporting – and cover
stories from all sides.
- To the community: Join with me in
calling for change with CPD policies and rooting out the voices within who want
to maintain the status quo.
Barack Obama said “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or
some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that
a journey, not a destination. I invite you to join me on this journey.
We are at
crossroads and the path we take is up to us.