COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s capital city should create an independent civilian review board to allow a second look at police actions, according to a report released Thursday by a commission created to study improvements to community and police relations following a spate of violence.
The goal is an independent body that would investigate police shootings and allegations of misconduct as part of correcting perceptions some in the community have about law enforcement, said Janet Jackson, chairwoman of the Community Safety Advisory Commission.
“Those things right there in terms of how they’re treated today is what creates so much mistrust, and especially in minority communities.” said Jackson, a former judge and Columbus City Attorney.
The recommendation is one of 80 released following 18 months of review of police relations in Columbus by the advisory commission.
One of the incidents leading to the commission’s work was the 2016 shooting of Henry Green by two undercover police officers working in an anti-crime summer initiative.
Columbus police say the 23-year-old Green, who was black, ignored commands by two white officers to drop his gun during the incident.
Court documents and depositions say Green shot at officers, who then returned fire. Green’s family argued Green only fired after police shot at him.
The agency has been criticized for other shootings since. Later in 2016, a white officer fatally shot a 13-year-old black teenager during a robbery investigation. In 2017, a video showed a Columbus officer restraining a prone man and preparing to handcuff him when an officer who was involved in the Green shooting arrives and appears to kick the man—who was black—in the head. The city fired that officer but an arbitrator ordered him reinstated.
In 2018, a cellphone video showed officers punching and kicking a black suspect as they tried to subdue him in an arrest. And earlier this month, as Mayor Andrew Ginther addressed an annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, two people were arrested while protesting the 2018 fatal police shooting of a 16-year-old boy, who was black, during a robbery sting operation.
Columbus police have a “significant disparity of use of force against minority residents” that the city must address, according to a report by Matrix Consulting Group last year for the safety advisory commission.
Ginther on Thursday called the civilian review board an “important recommendation” and said he was committed to seeing it accomplished.
Such a board will “help continue to make the division more transparent and accountable,” Ginther said.
Newly appointed police chief Thomas Quinlan took a more cautious approach, saying he wanted to see details first. “I don’t feel we have anything to hide. We’re transparent. Our investigations are always open to the public,” he said.
Police unions are typically skeptical of such review boards, saying they’re prone to politics and take authority away from police agencies. A message was left with the union representing Columbus police seeking comment on the recommendation.