September 15, 2020
At the end of May, George Floyd was
murdered by a police officer and the country erupted in grief, anger and
outrage. Streets of Columbus filled with protesters sharing those emotions and
demanding change in policing.
We all saw images that fell far short
of what we expected from some of our police officers as a community during
those weeks. And because of that, I set up a hotline to take complaints outside
the police chain of command and to have them investigated independently.
We referred 32 of these complaints to
the law firm of BakerHostetler to investigate for actions outside of Division
policy and then be referred to the Division for discipline, or administrative
action. More serious offenses – 21 to date – have been turned over to a former
FBI agent who is now working to investigate potential criminal charges.
Many of the reports by BakerHostetler
have been completed, and the results were surprising to me and to others. The
majority of the cases were returned as “not sustained” – meaning there was not
a preponderance of evidence to prove or disprove the complaint. Only one
complaint so far has been sustained.
I am frustrated and angry that police
behavior that did not meet community expectations will not be met with swift
The results from these investigations
prove to me more clearly than ever the need for police reform.
BakerHostetler identified the
challenges they faced in these investigations – including the unwillingness of
some officers to share information and incomplete after action reports by other
officers, making it virtually impossible in some cases to identify the officers
Division training and policy also
contributed to some of the results of the investigations. That is, at the time
of the protests, some officer interactions – including the use of pepper spray
– were within Division policy. Changes to that policy -- specifically the use
of chemical agents – including how riot gear was used, how officers identified
themselves and the use of body cameras resulted in fewer complaints.
Regardless, there are still instances
where officers acted in manner that violated the public trust and where I
expected officers would be held accountable.
The need for a civilian review board
with subpoena power and an inspector general office is more apparent than ever.
Had those been in place, investigations could have been launched without
awaiting complaints from the public. And subpoenas would have compelled
witnesses to give testimony.
These investigations are not the end
of our commitment to police reform. They will become part of the Carter Stewart
high-level report of how the city as a whole responded to protests.
Chief Quinlan now meets regularly with
the Chief’s Advisory Panel seated in July to continue to discuss policies and
procedures at CPD.
And I will continue stress the need
for police reform, revisions to the FOP contract and a civilian review board
with subpoena powers.