ENOUGH: An Open Letter to Columbus Mayor Ginther from Queer Partnership for Black Liberation
The time for a diplomatic, incremental approach to change has long passed. Drastic, systemic change must be instituted in the Department of Public Safety immediately. The Division of Police, in particular, has exhibited time and again a culture that neither values nor respects Black life. That culture, which is perpetuated at every level of seniority, puts every Black person in Columbus in danger. There is a nasty, gaping wound in our public safety system and the band-aids that have been placed upon it have proven inadequate to stop the flow of our community’s blood. You must do more.
When given the opportunity to instigate deep, systemic change in the Division of Police by hiring a police chief from outside the department, you failed to seize it. Instead, you chose Thomas Quinlan, a Columbus Police Division veteran. Quinlan promised a department that would operate according to 5 core values: Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence.
Six months into Chief Quinlan’s tenure (which was in fact 24 months into his command when you consider the 18 months he spent as interim chief), it was clear that the police division he promised had not been realized. Compassion, accountability, respect, and excellence were all absent from the sustained interactions between CDP and protesters throughout June. Dozens in the community recognized the failures and brought them to your attention, insisting that what our country had witnessed in Ferguson, Louisville, and Minneapolis was bound to happen here if something significant didn’t change. Community leaders impressed upon you that a mere desire to bring about cultural change is not enough. Change leadership is a skill; one that Chief Quinlan does not possess.
Six months later, two more Black men are dead.
The facts surrounding the death of Andre Hill are staggering. The officer who murdered him, Adam Coy, is a 19 year veteran and resident of Union County. In 2003, Officer Coy had a 69 page file of civilian complaints against him, four of which came in a single month. He received written counseling. In 2012, Officer Coy cost the city $45,000 when it was found liable for his use of excessive force. He was caught on his cruiser camera “banging the driver’s head into the hood four times during the arrest” and that was “excessive for the situation.” His punishment was a 240 hour suspension that was reduced to 160 hours. Mayor, Officer Coy should no longer have been employed by the city of Columbus.
On December 22, Officer Coy responded to a noise complaint, and when he arrived, he exited his vehicle and did not turn on his camera. Upon approaching an open garage, he did not turn on his camera. He saw a Black man in the garage. He didn’t turn on his camera. He fired his gun. The gun, then turned on his camera.
The mediocre, partially enforced standards to which our law enforcement officers are held are not acceptable and in no way honor the dignity and humanity of our community. As an officer said to a reporter this summer (anonymously, fearing retaliation), “We need a reset button. We need a new Chief from the outside who is honest. And we need to hit the reset button because things are crazy and not right.”
We urge you to hit reset by taking the following actions:
1. Fire Chief Quinlan
Thomas Quinlan has demonstrated an inability to lead in times of crisis, effectuate organizational cultural change, train officers, hold officers accountable, or follow the orders of his supervisor (you). Having demonstrated his willingness to defy your orders, his leadership can no longer be trusted. We also urge you to appoint an interim chief with care, not trepidation. Be not bound by the strictures of tradition or practice, but choose the officer who will begin dismantling the toxic culture with the division.
2. Fire Public Safety Director Ned Pettus
Director Pettus has continued to approve the return to work for officers with histories of complaints and excessive force. He stated Wednesday, December 23rd, that he was the last line of decision before hiring, firing, and discipline of officers, all of which have failed to meet the standards of the community. Again, we urge you to resist habit and practice, but to choose someone who has the perspective and skills to lead the Division in a new direction.
3. Fire Officer Coy
Reasons stated above.
4. Suspend without pay every officer who failed to render aid to Andre Hill
It is first responder protocol to render first aid upon arrival and awareness of a human in distress. These officers failed in their duty to protect life.
5. Present the public with a framework for restructuring the Division of Police
We look forward to witnessing your swift action and leadership in this time of immense pain and grief.
Queer Partnership for Black Liberation
J. Love Benton, Ph.D.
Member, Chief’s Advisory Committee
Board Vice President, Black, Out & Proud
Danielle Boyd, MSSA
Social Science Researcher
Member, Black, Out & Proud
Siobhan Boyd-Nelson, JD
Director of Development & External Relations, Equality Ohio Board
Secretary, Black, Out & Proud
C. Raphael Davis-Williams, JD
Director of Equity and Inclusion, ACLU of Ohio
Board Member, Black, Out & Proud
Karen Hewitt, MA Ed.
Deputy Director, Kaleidoscope Youth Center
Eboni Partlow, MPA
Board President, Black, Out & Proud
Letha Pugh, MS
Small Business owner
Co-founder, Black, Out & Proud
Dwayne Steward, MPA
Director of Prevention, Equitas Health
Erin Upchurch, MSSA, LISW-S
Member, Chief’s Advisory Committee
Executive Director, Kaleidoscope Youth Center
The letter was sent to Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther by electronic message on December 26, 2020.