Council Advances Third Phase of Reimagining Public Safety
to improve neighborhood safety, advance police reforms
[Columbus, OH] On Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Columbus City
Council presented short-, and long-term proposals to prevent violence and
increase neighborhood safety while continuing the push for improved
accountability, training and engagement in the Division of Police.
“Every resident deserves to feel safe no matter where they live
or when they leave the house,” said Council President Shannon G. Hardin.
"With this legislative package, we aim to keep neighborhoods safe,
continue reform, and build trust between the community and law
Since the fall of 2020, Council facilitated more than 4,000
resident surveys, 22 hours of public hearings, dozens of town halls, focus
groups, commissioned studies and conducted internal dialogue with City staff,
including the Division of Police, to refine what is best for Columbus. Last
summer’s initial package included independent investigations into lethal force,
limiting no-knock raids, beginning to demilitarize the police, instituting
background checks for hate-group affiliation and creating the Civilian Police
“We listened to our residents. We listened to our police
officers,” said Hardin. “Both are asking
for support and have ideas on how to make us safer while advancing reforms and
modernizing the entire Division.”
Investing in Neighborhood Safety
We are one community. It is the role and responsibility of
Council to listen to its neighbors and take action. Gun violence, human
trafficking and quality of life issues that include ATVs, dirt bikes and noise
are affecting how we live. The work to address these is underway with the
sole purpose of improving the quality of life for residents.
Council recently introduced legislation to amend the City’s
solicitation code with new provisions regarding human trafficking and sexual
exploitation. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our most vulnerable
neighborhoods and residents, leading to increases in crime and solicitation in
our communities. Therefore, in addition to increasing the penalties to the
buyers of sex, Council will be investing $480,000 in service organizations
dedicated to direct outreach with victims of human trafficking and community
members who struggle with addiction.
Gun violence has had a huge impact on this community.
Unfortunately, a large number of the persons impacted have been young people,
who have gained access to a firearm. Just last week, an 11-year-old was
critically injured because a 14-year-old family member was playing with a
parent’s gun. Council partnered with the Columbus Division of Fire to provide
access to free gun locks, no questions asked. Beginning next week, any adult will
be able to obtain a gun lock from any one of our Fire Stations across the
“The safety of our community is paramount,” said Councilmember Mitchell J. Brown. “We
shouldn’t have accidental shootings of children with unlocked guns. We need to
‘Love our Children by Locking our Guns.’”
ATV and Dirt Bikes
Recently, Columbus has seen an increase in ATV and dirt bikes
being ridden through our neighborhoods, often at high speeds. These dangerous
actions are being seen in cities across the country, and it’s proven to be
difficult to enforce. Council, the Division of Police and the City Attorney’s
office are exploring strategies to address this problem.
Uplifting Black Girls
Recently, Council passed more than $1.1 million in legislation
to support Black women and girls. The funds will support employment, leadership,
enrichment, and empowerment programs for organizations such as IMPACT Community
Action, The Center for Healthy Families, Image Character Etiquette Inc./Eryn
PiNK, and PMM Agency. Further, OSU College of Social Work will be working with
the juvenile courts to lead a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program for
Black girls aimed to promote restoration and healing that will reduce the
potential for law-breaking behavior.
“Reimagining Public Safety has to incorporate proactive measures
to provide residents with the resources they need to thrive,” said
Councilmember Priscilla Tyson.
“Specifically, I am focusing on Black girls because we learned from the Quality
of Life of Black Girls in Columbus, Ohio report that Black girls are burdened
with stigmas that rob them of their girlhood; and this causes a number of
Click here to view the report.
The members of Council vehemently believe police officers can
deliver high-quality service to the community and be held accountable while
building trust with residents. The work to deliver a comprehensive legislative
strategy in cooperation with Public Safety and the Administration that results
in a Division that works for every resident is the ultimate goal.
Duty to Intervene and Requirement to Report
The responsibility of police officers to protect the public
sometimes may require that they intervene in the actions of other officers,
particularly if they are witness to actions that transgress the use of force
policies. In the event an officer does use excessive force, other officers on
the scene should be obligated to intervene and report the occurrence. A Duty to
Intervene policy will give offices the additional support they need to report
excessive uses of force by their peers.
“In Columbus it is important that we do all we can to protect
our residents, this includes our officers being mandated to intervene during
any unnecessary use of force or abuses by fellow officers,” said Councilmember Emmanuel V. Remy. “There
shall be no thin line between police officers doing their job and abusing their
Use of Force
The legislation would require that all Columbus police officers
exhaust all alternatives before using lethal force. This includes but is not
limited to the usage of less-lethal force and de-escalation tactics.
“Establishing trust between members of our community and our
police officers is essential to public safety,” said Councilmember Shayla Favor. “I look
forward to advancing policies that will ensure everyone involved in an
interaction with law enforcement makes it home safely. By exhausting
alternatives to lethal force and ensuring comprehensive reporting, we have the
ability to create greater transparency and eliminate fear in police-involved
The militarization of police in Columbus and throughout the
United States was apparent during the George Floyd protests of 2020. Public
testimony and feedback to Council indicated many residents felt the response
was disproportionate to the behavior of the protestors and further eroded
public trust in law enforcement.
In response, Council will enact guidelines to ensure our
officers’ equipment and tactics will reinforce their role as peacekeepers.
Council will advance legislation that includes prohibiting the use of control
agents and specialty impact munitions against non-violent protestors.
“Too many Black and Brown families in our City do not feel
protected by our police, and that is bad for all of us,” said President Pro Tem
Elizabeth Brown. “We
must do everything we can to assure our residents that the peace officers we
employ are there to keep every family in every neighborhood safe. The actions
we're taking today to further demilitarize police presence are a step in that
These efforts are in addition to working with the Administration
and the Department of Public Safety to immediately codify the orders from the
June 2021 ruling by Judge Algenon L. Marbley, the Columbus Community Safety
Advisory Commission Report, which can be found here and the
commissioned report by Matrix Consulting on the Columbus Division of Police,
which can be found here.
Trust between law enforcement and the community is paramount.
This is especially present in minority communities where the ramifications of
systemic racism, disparities in government policy and accountability continue
to impact the daily interactions between residents and public safety negatively.
Civilian Police Review Board
In 2020, City of Columbus voters approved the creation of the
Civilian Police Review Board. They are charged with investigating alleged
police misconduct within the City limits. Now that the Board has been set,
Council, with community input, is taking additional steps to further define the
policy and scope of authority.
“The task the Civilian Review Board (CRB) has in front of it is
great and our City’s expectations are rightfully very high," said
Councilmember Rob Dorans. "It is
important that we are transparent in order to build the legitimacy and trust
that we need. We are committed to engaging with the public and our partners in
the City Attorney's Office, the Administration, and the members of the CRB to
ensure we have the right foundation for the Board's vital work."
Council is scheduled to hold a hearing on July 6, 2021, at 5 pm
on the Civilian Police Review Board.
Diversity in the Workforce:
In a city as diverse and vibrant as Columbus, the demographics
of city employees should be more reflective of our community. Engaging and
educating our community on employment opportunities with the City is a start to
achieving this goal. Evaluating the Civil Service process and removing
barriers that limit diversity will be a major step in having a more inclusive
workforce that is better prepared to serve every resident of Columbus, especially
as it relates to public safety.
Funding Healing and
Throughout this process, Council has embraced the power of the
people. The next phase of this engagement process is to provide grants to
community organizations to support projects that provide wellness and
trauma-informed conversations, educate the greater community on racial equity
and build toward a more trusting relationship amongst our community members and
“We cannot do this work in a vacuum,” said Hardin. “It is critical
we lean on each other to reach all sectors of the community. There is much work
to be done.”
Reimagining Public Safety is a multifaceted, comprehensive
approach to push policing reform, keep neighborhoods safe and restore trust in
public safety. Through extensive outreach, research, and public discourse
targeting underserved communities, Council has developed a progressive and
responsive change framework. Columbus, America's Opportunity City, will become
the best place to live, work, play and raise a family because its leaders
listen and take action on the needs of its residents.