July 29, 2021
Earlier this week, Columbus City Council voted to approve the City's new three-year contract with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), a historic leap forward for transparency and accountability, and the single most progressive contract in a generation. I encourage you to read more about it here.
Since my first term in office, I have pursued and achieved meaningful police reform – and I am pleased that this contract both speeds up and advances many of those same efforts. From expanding the accessibility of body-worn camera footage to standing up the Civilian Police Review Board and the Office of the Inspector General for the Columbus Division of Police – both of which will provide robust, independent civilian oversight of police for the first time in our City's history – we are making tremendous strides toward rebuilding trust between officers and residents by changing the face and culture of policing.
As I have said before, I support our police officers and reform. This contract does both. In addition to the necessary powers for civilian oversight, it paves the way for several additional reforms demanded by our community, including post-incident drug testing and improved officer training.
One provision I am sure many of you have already heard about is the Retirement Incentive Program, which will allow up to 100 officers with 25 or more years of service to retire early. This enables senior officers who no longer wish to serve to leave the division without taking a financial hit while increasing the opportunity for new, more diverse and well-trained recruits to enter the ranks. It will ultimately result in a net cost savings to the City – dollars we will invest in recruiting new officers and increasing pay for those who serve.
Let me be clear: It has never been harder to be a police officer than it is today, and we want to reward officers who are devoted to serving Columbus through a community-policing model. This contract implements several new practices and procedures, and it affirms and grows our mechanisms for oversight, but it also gives officers greater certainty, security and direction. I have no doubt that police and residents will reap the benefits for many years to come.
In the meantime, Chief Bryant and I will redouble our efforts to address violent crime while implementing this contract and all of its reforms. Despite the size and scope of this announcement, our work is not done.
Just today, we released the promising initial results of the Alternative Response program that imbeds social workers and mental health professionals with 911 operators. More than 60% of the calls taken during the pilot program did not require law enforcement. And when police, fire or an EMT did need to respond to the call, Alternative Response engaged in de-escalation techniques to assist first responders. We will be continuing and expanding this program.
Neighbors, challenges – and opportunities – still lie ahead. But now is the time for all of us to come together and continue to make Columbus the safe, inclusive and dynamic city we all know it can and deserves to be.