A Pathway to Reform
A budget shows your values. But at the
same time, people resist change even when they know reform is needed.
Both of these thoughts are on my mind as we amended the 2021 City of Columbus
Budget. This is the toughest budget in years because our citizens are
living through the compounding crises of COVID-19 and restoring trust in our
Division of Police.
The budget City Council will pass on February 22 will be
uncomfortable for many. However, the status quo of our $334 million Division of
Police and decades of increased funding have not given our residents the
justice and safety they deserve.
As we bring in new Division leaders, new recruiting tactics and
training, and work with neighborhood safety partners, the 2021 budget must make
I appreciate Mayor Ginther for advancing a strong proposed
budget to serve as a foundation to the amendments my colleagues and I have
worked on over the past several months.
The 2021 budget allows Council to work with the administration
to continue basic neighborhood services without going beyond our means or
tapping into our savings. In addition to funding neighborhood services, it sets
aside $10 million for each of three areas of COVID-19 relief: Support for
Families, Support for Small Business and Economic Recovery, and Support for
Front Line City Operations.
The biggest change is the newly created $10 million fund to
Reimagine Public Safety. This was created after 22 hours of public
hearings, 4,000 survey replies, dozens of meetings on how we effectively enact
change, and weeks of protests. We heard you and we listened.
This budget invests in the recommendations of MATRIX and the
Community Safety Advisory Commission. Our budget amendments lay the
groundwork to add new tools to our public safety toolbox and advance my top
priority, an Alternative Crisis Response operation.
The new division of alternative crisis response will house both
co-responder models like the Mobile Crisis Response team and, in the future,
trained civilian response teams to answer calls for non-violent mental and
behavioral health calls, addiction, individuals experiencing homelessness, and
more. These folks need care, not handcuffs.
With an ongoing audit of Police recruitment, civil service, and
hiring practices, Council is calling for a pause on recruit hiring for the
proposed June 2021 class. Our residents deserve to know that the
recruitment and screening process is rigorous and puts the best possible public
servants into the Division of Police. After the audit is returned, it makes
sense to add officers to future classes.
Delaying this class allows for $2.5 million to be redirected for
more than $1.5 million for neighborhood anti-violence efforts, $250,000 for
youth diversion and job programs, as well as more than $250,000 for additional
training and first aid equipment for Police officers to implement Andre’s Law.
The budget also provides $1 million for the creation of the
civilian review board and hiring of the Inspector General as proposed by Mayor
Ginther and supported by a vote of our residents.
Some budget decisions may not sit well with many following a
year of increased homicides. As I wrote my budget speech, news came that
our city lost a 14-year-old to violence. For the last year and a half,
I’ve called every parent of a youth killed in our city. It is
heartbreaking. Just adding officers is not enough. That’s why we need
the Division and every officer to embrace change, to hold themselves and their
peers accountable, and to re-engage with community policing needed to prevent
and root out violent crime.
This is a budget to help guarantee justice and safety for all
residents. We must stack hands to do the hard work of rebuilding the
bonds of civic trust that were so badly fractured last year.
It’s on all of us to
keep our city safe. I ask that stakeholders on all sides show grace and
patience as we walk forward these reforms and build a justice system worthy of
a great city.