Metropolis leaders, neighborhood welcome DOJ investigation into Columbus police

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Area political and civil leaders say they would welcome a US Department of Justice investigation into racial prejudice by the Columbus Police, formally requested by Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and District Attorney Zach Klein

However, the chief of the local fraternal police force said the request for a DOJ investigation was just another example of officials being relentlessly “demonized” by politicians.

Ginther and Klein signed a letter Tuesday calling on the DOJ to conduct a review of police operations in Columbus “in order to identify any racial prejudice in police efforts and to offer results and coordinated solutions for reform.”

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In a statement posted on his Twitter feed Thursday morning, Ginther said he discussed the potential for the investigation with “faith and community leaders, the Ohio Congressional Delegation and many others” before mailing the letter.

“It has become clear that we cannot achieve the rapid, meaningful and sustainable change that we all want without different tools,” wrote Ginther. “We believe this will help create an environment that fosters trust between residents and police – and ultimately leads to a Columbus that is safer for everyone.”

Congressman Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday encouraging the DOJ’s investigation. She began her letter by listing the names of six blacks killed by the Columbus police, including Henry Green and Ma’Khia Bryant.

“These are the names of members of my ward who were killed by law enforcement,” Beatty said. “While the patterns of fact differ in each case – some were involved in dangerous confrontations, others were completely innocent of wrongdoing, some were just children – all I believe were avoidable. All were tragedies in their own way. One undeniable constant is this They were all the lives of black members of my community who were cut down by the police. ”

Beatty was also referring to her own experience Pepper sprayed by the police at a protest at the end of May 2020 and the Matrix Consulting Group report However, one study found that the police disproportionately use violence against minorities.

“I understand that federal intervention is necessary to address these systemic deficiencies, address long-standing problems, and restore public confidence in those who have vowed to protect and serve them,” Beatty wrote.

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City Council President Shannon Hardin said Wednesday night he was delighted to see Ginther react to an idea he proposed earlier this month.

“Last week, I raised this request in a series of calls to Mayor Ginther and Prosecutor Klein. Today I am pleased to hear that the Mayor now agrees to ask for DOJ intervention,” Hardin said in a statement posted on Twitter . “The time has come to open up and review the department’s policies, practices and procedures and turn reforms into a reality.”

Hardin’s councilor Shayla Favor also tweeted her support for a DOJ investigation.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Jeff Simpson, executive vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police at Capitol City Lodge No. 9, said the officers he represents in the Columbus Division of Police will continue to do their jobs independently of what investigations might come.

“Officers are relentlessly condemned and demonized even when the officer’s actions are compatible with training and the law,” Simpson said. “Politicians who continually defame civil servants create contempt for authority, encourage the criminal element and have resulted in a mass exodus of law enforcement officers from the profession.”

Simpson said Columbus saw the direct impact as the pace of murders in 2021 will surpass that of 2020 – the deadliest year in the city’s history.

“The majority of citizens appreciate the fact that officials risk their lives every day to protect them,” Simpson said. “Our members will continue to protect and serve their communities and behave with the utmost professionalism even when our leaders and politicians do not.”

Ginher’s office said Thursday the DOJ’s involvement would not hinder ongoing contract negotiations with the police union.

Robin Davis, Ginher’s assistant chief of staff for communications, said the city of Columbus “asked the DOJ to partner with our city to see what additional reforms are needed to improve policing, where policing is different and what changes are being made are required to correct this. ” Disparities. We would also like to draw on the expertise of the DOJ to implement national best practices in policing. We are aware that if the department is unable or unwilling to make changes itself, federal disputes and the issuing of a decree of consent may be necessary.

Protesters march in downtown Columbus on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 after fatal police shot dead 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant when officers tried on one early afternoon on the southeast side of the city Sting call responded.

The announcement of a motion for an investigation by the DOJ came hours after an attorney for Bryant’s family said they wanted a federal investigation into her death.

A group of local leaders calling themselves the Columbus Police Accountability Project held a press conference Thursday calling for a federal investigation as well.

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Local civil rights attorney Sean Walton, a member of the group that also owns the Mother of Casey Goodson Jr., who was killed by Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy Jason Meade in December, said in a statement on behalf of the group on Wednesday evening that the DOJ’s investigation was welcome, but only one step.

Two teenagers listen as religious leaders demand a police reform outside the AEP Energy building on Marconi Blvd.  and West Long Street, across from the Columbus Division intersection of Police Headquarters in downtown Columbus on Sunday, April 25, 2021.

“We’re glad Mayor Ginther has finally recognized what parishioners have recognized for years: the Columbus police force under his leadership is out of control and needs federal oversight,” said Walton. “We ask the DOJ to recognize the longstanding patterns and practices of the CPD and to align accountability with the needs of these families and parishioners. During all his years in office, Mayor Ginther has made no significant effort to reform the CPD. Police officers without accountability or consideration for the human.” Letting life run rampant. “

Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Walton said, “The only cooperation we expect the mayor’s office to work with is to step down” and have the DOJ investigated.

“… We as a city must have the opportunity to heal from years of trauma inflicted on us by the police division,” he said.

Walton said the group wanted a consent decree and would not be satisfied unless there is a court order to schedule the change.

Another responsibility group member, Stephanie Hightower of the Columbus Urban League, said, “Our children are now part of a bloodline of trauma we should all be ashamed of. We cannot have people who are afraid of black and brown people, who sit in the police force. “

Walton also criticized Ginter’s use of the term “young woman” to describe 16-year-old Bryant on Wednesday night. He said she was a child, and Ginter’s choice of words “shows how touchless and disconnected he is from reality. Our communities are confronted on a daily basis.”

Fred Gittes, a local civil rights attorney who has sued the Columbus Police Department for excessive use of force, said a “river of racism” had dominated the police division for years and he welcomed a federal investigation.

“It hurts the good officials here,” said Gittes, who is also one of the lawyers representing 26 plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit accusing Columbus police of civil rights violations and protests in late May and June following the killing Used by George Floyd for excessive force to have ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

“There’s a culture problem in the department and it’s going to take a long time to fix,” Gittes said. “The division has not in the past blamed its officers and superiors for excessive violence, especially against black citizens.”

Faith leaders called for police reform outside the AEP Energy building on Marconi Blvd.  and West Long Street, across from the Columbus Division intersection of Police Headquarters in downtown Columbus on Sunday, April 25, 2021.

Shipping reporter Mark Ferenchik contributed to this report.

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