November 10, 2021
Our city is at a crossroads. How we respond and recover from an unprecedented time in our history matters. We must make informed and forward-reaching decisions now to build the city we want to see in the future.
More than ever, we are collaborating with subject matter experts, established service providers and community stakeholders to incorporate new data and best practices to develop effective solutions to the many challenges we face as a community. Together, we will create the safest, most inclusive and most resilient tomorrow, for all our neighbors and all our neighborhoods, by learning from our past and being nimble, innovative and proactive today, and every day after.
My proposed 2022 operating budget includes historic investments in neighborhood safety that range from more police officers and firefighters to expanded programming across city departments – and to external partners, as well.
We remain mindful of the increase in separations among our sworn safety forces, especially in the Division of Police. My proposed operating budget includes more than $9 million for three new recruit classes in both Police and Fire, which will add a total of 170 new police officers and 125 new firefighters to our safety forces in the coming year.
Our newest police officers, in particular, will be trained extensively in community policing, which is crucial to bridging the divide between the community and law enforcement, and alleviating the current spike in crime.
At the same time, we are pursuing plans to expand police reserve units and support lateral moves from other agencies to further strengthen our public safety forces during a period of profound transition and demand.
Although our work requires that we keep a watchful and discerning eye on the future, we also recognize that we have an urgent duty to care for the officers we already have.
The 2022 operating budget will include new investments in wellness programs that connect first responders with clinicians who impart valuable skills, knowledge and resources – empowering our officers to thrive both on and off duty.
This is in addition to the planned police and fire joint wellness center, funding for which was part of our capital improvements budget approved by City Council last week.
Our commitment to holistic health and well-being extends to the broader community, as well. Key initiatives include:
- Expanding the Alternative Response Program, which imbeds social workers and mental health professionals in 9-1-1 dispatch to facilitate more precise and robust emergency responses.
- Expanding the city’s successful Safe Streets bike patrol to additional neighborhoods.
- Expanding the city’s RREACT (Rapid Response Emergency Addiction Crisis Team) efforts, a first-of-its-kind initiative that provides follow-up services for opiate overdose patients.
- Continuing TAPS (Teens and Police Service), a program that connects youth with police mentors.
- Forming the Police Athletic League to promote healthy habits and physical activity while establishing trusting bonds between youth and public safety personnel.
- Continuing cross-departmental responses to neighborhoods by coordinating city resources to create physical deterrents to crime.
- Continuing investments in GVI (Group Violence Intervention) to advance strategies and resources that reduce violent crime.
- Working with city departments and outside partners such as the Columbus Urban League for youth interventions, including PEP (Parent Enrichment Program), a collaboration with Columbus Urban League and Franklin County Municipal Courts to provide enrichment classes to families who have children on the cusp of entering the criminal justice system.
- Continuing the work of the CARE Coalition and VOICE (Violence, Outreach, Intervention and Community Engagement), a hospital-based intervention program for victims of violent attacks.
- Continuing investments in young people through My Brother’s Keeper as well as extensive programming in the city’s Recreation and Parks Department.
I am proud of the speed at which we have implemented some of the most sweeping policing reforms in our history:
We’ve changed the city’s use-of-force policy, implemented independent investigations into instances of deadly force, established the Civilian Police Review Board and Inspector General for the Division of Police, hired a police chief from outside the division for the first time in history to advocate for change, developed immersive, community-based training for new recruits, enhanced the body-worn camera program, and successfully negotiated historic changes to the F.O.P contract that will benefit both our residents and our officers.
Everyone has a role to play in building a safer, more resilient Columbus. We will not achieve our goals overnight. It will require time, patience, persistence and collaboration to see these plans through.
The challenges we face are complex, and they are varied – and so too are the solutions. But we are steadfast in our resolve to always do more, and do better, to achieve the greatest possible impact.
Columbus bands together, time and again, to meet the needs of the moment and to exemplify the exceptional standard to which other communities aspire. We have done it before, and we will do it again.