Council Expands Effort to Reimagine Public Safety Through Budgetary Process
Establishes Principles for Budget Process, Public Engagement and Continued Reform
[Columbus, OH] Over the course of a challenging year, Columbus residents have spoken up about the desire to rethink what public safety means in our city. On Monday, November 23, 2020, City Council outlined a Reimagining Public Safety framework to create accountability, build a better Division of Police, establish alternative crisis response and invest in violence prevention.
“Reform is a marathon and not a sprint,” said Council President Shannon G. Hardin. “Over the next several months, Council will work with community members to drill down on how to invest in violence prevention, accountability, and begin to stand-up an alternative crisis response system.”
This past November, voters approved one of the key pillars of the Reimagining Public Safety initiative - police accountability. The passage of Issue 2 amended the City of Columbus Charter to create a Civilian Review Board and an independent Inspector General within the Division of Police. Columbus is the largest city in the U.S. without some type of civilian police oversight.
Issue 2 also added the Department of the Inspector General. It will be an independent investigatory body fully funded, staffed and directed by the Civilian Police Review Board. The Inspector General will provide for the independent investigations into the Division of Police that residents demand.
During the summer, Columbus City Council passed a legislative reform package and announced the 2021 Budget would allow longer-term reforms to be discussed, enacted and advanced.
“We can’t have a conversation about making every resident safe without addressing the economic insecurity impacting Columbus families,” said President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown. “Through our review of the 2021 budget we are committed to addressing the needs of families as a strategy to reduce and prevent violence.”
As part of the budgetary process, Council will conduct a series of hearings relating directly to the reimagining public safety initiative. Council is also contracting with the Saunders Company to conduct an extensive community engagement effort beyond the traditional budget process. The Saunders Company and Council will hold focus groups, surveys, and other engagement events to hear from folks who may not be able to join typical budget hearings.
Councilmember Mitchell J. Brown will lead a hearing of the Public Safety Committee on December 2, 2020, to provide an overview of the Public Safety Department’s budget, followed by a hearing on proposed reforms with the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission on December 9, 2020. Additional hearings will be scheduled in January 2021 to focus on specific proposals.
These efforts are in addition to working with the Administration and the Department of Public Safety to immediately implement recommendations from the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission Report and the Columbus Division of Police Operational Review Report by Matrix Consulting.
This summer, Council passed short-term measures to advance efforts to reimage how Columbus will engage residents in crisis. The legislative package included limiting no-knock and quick-knock raids, expanding background checks for officers to include hate group affiliation, some demilitarization efforts and advanced independent investigations into police misconduct.
Council has already begun a thorough investigation into alternative methods for public safety response. Some programs in existence include Rapid Response Emergency Addiction and Crisis Teams (RREACT), which responds to opioid addiction situations, the Mobile Crisis Response Unit, which arrests 90 percent fewer people in mental health crisis situations than regular officers, and APPS, which aims to reduce crime and violence by increasing protective factors in the lives of Columbus youth and young adults (ages 14-23) through proven prevention and intervention strategies. These efforts will be reviewed as more public feedback is utilized.
“In my years working in public safety, I have come to understand the importance of matching the emergency response to meet the situation at hand," said Councilmember Mitchell J. Brown. "This requires investment in people, training, and systems to ensure our first responders effectively serve the residents of Columbus.”
To view the Monday, November 23, 2020 press conference announcing the next steps to Reimagine Public Safety, click here.