June 2, 2021
Neighbors, we are at a critical moment in our city’s history as we work to move through and past the pandemic that has gripped all of us for more than a year. COVID-19 has laid bare the racial and economic disparities that have long divided our city, state and nation -- disparities in public health, housing, education and employment. And, it has highlighted the disproportionate impact of violence and a broken system of policing on communities of color.
It has amplified the calls for racial justice rooted in a distrust of police in our community – especially among our Black and Brown neighbors. At the same time, we face the prospect of what could be the most violent year in our city’s history with so many of the victims being our young people.
COVID-19 did not create these disparities but underscored the urgent need to confront them, to dismantle the systems that created them and to build a more equitable, inclusive and resilient community.
We are working every day to root out systemic racism – to make meaningful and lasting police reform – and we have made historic progress. We are holding officers accountable, making changes to police use of force and training, and we are developing an alternative response – the right response – to people in crisis.
And, for the first time in our city’s history, we will have independent civilian oversight of police. Still, our work is just beginning, and there is much left to do to create a 21st- century Division of Police that meets our community expectations.
In order to make the change and reform we seek, we need a police chief who is committed to the charge. We need a leader with extensive experience in law enforcement as well as sound judgment, empathy and a commitment to community policing.
We have found all of this in Elaine Bryant, who I am happy to announce as my selection as the next Chief of the Columbus Division of Police.
This is a new day for the Division and for the City of Columbus, with our first-ever chief from outside the Division and the first African-American woman to hold the position.
But that history is not as significant as the change in the culture of policing we will make -- together -- to rebuild trust with the community and to keep Columbus neighborhoods safe.
Chief Bryant is a change agent and a reformer.
In her 21 years with the Detroit Police Department, she served in multiple capacities, including patrol, investigations and administration. During that time, she ascended through the ranks – having been promoted five times from patrol officer to deputy chief – and coordinated Detroit’s response to several high-profile events, including the 2006 Super Bowl.
A strong proponent for inclusion and reform, Bryant supported efforts to completely overhaul investigations in compliance with a Department of Justice decree, led the Domestic Violence Unit, worked in the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and Internal Affairs Unit, collaborated with Detroit’s civilian oversight board, and created and expanded numerous community relations projects to strengthen ties between police and residents.
At the same time, she possesses a collaborative spirit, recognizing the importance of support for officers and of mentoring women and minorities in the ranks.
She is well aware of the difficulties facing her in accepting this position. She did not shy away from the challenge but instead accepted with enthusiasm.
I am excited that Chief Bryant is joining the city, but I want to emphasize that she is not our savior. She alone cannot bring about the change we want and need.
As President 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 we seek.”
I ask everyone to remember that we all have a role to play in our city’s future. Together, we can move toward healing, toward 21st-century community policing and toward a city that is safe for everyone.