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Recommendations for Handling Protestors, Juvenile Justice in new Commission Report

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Recommendations for Handling Protestors, Juvenile Justice in new Commission ReportPhoto via Wikimedia Commons.
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An 18-month process has finally seen the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission release its final report to Mayor Andrew Ginther.

In November 2017, Mayor Ginther announced the creation of the commission. Since April of the following year, the commission conducted 24 meetings, with two public forums held in 2019 for community feedback. The commission reviewed existing CDP policies, spoke to internal and external experts, and considered data from the operational review conducted by Matrix Consulting to address some of the division’s biggest challenges and recommendations on ways to improve CDP training, policies and procedures.

The 80 recommendations, each approved in October of 2019 by a majority commission vote, include suggestions for improving recruitment, hiring, testing, curriculum, training, IT and data systems, crisis intervention, diversity and inclusion, community engagement, officer wellness and more.

Highlights from the recommendations include:

  • Encouraging the mayor, city officials, prosecutors and/or the Ohio legislature to eliminate the use of the felony murder rule (The felony murder rule was used in the prosecution of Masonique Saunders last year.)
  • Adding language into police training curriculum that addresses citizen’s individual civil rights, including the right to protest and First Amendment Rights, specifically related to non-aggressive police tactics for non-violent protests and marches
  • Establishing an independent civilian review board made up of “internal and external stakeholders”
  • Creating an independent group that can fully participate in CDP personnel investigations and the investigation of complaints about officer misconduct
  • Expanding and modifying training information and sessions that include cultural competency, implicit and explicit bias, racism, and empathy
  • Changing the length of time reprimands for excessive force can be removed to the duration of their employment
  • Establishing “community-based listening sessions” and encouraging community service in officers’ communities
  • Administering a yearly public survey of the community’s opinion of the police
  • Providing opportunities for mentorship during the first few years of police service, especially for minorities
  • Creating a Diversity and Inclusion Officer position
  • Making recruiting material available in multiple languages and making additional language fluency a valued skill, and adding referral incentive for minority groups
  • Updating uniform standards to allow for religious and culturally-specific head coverings
  • Adding the topics of child brain development and the impact of childhood trauma in juvenile justice training, and training on ways to de-escalate situations with children
  • Have training that addresses officer burnout and trauma, and administering a yearly survey that evaluates well-being, job satisfaction and workplace environment
  • Updating the progress of recommendations in an annual report that should be made available to the public
  • And continuing the commission “in some form,” said Janet Jackson, chair of the commission

The recommendation regarding individual civil rights has been made at an interesting time, considering an incident that happened at an event on Monday, Jan. 20 — a celebration of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. — in which two non-violent protestors were dragged out by police and arrested for criminal trespass. Reportedly, attendees at the event applauded the action.

Recommendations regarding ways to understand and de-escalate situations could address the very issue protestors were attempting to highlight — the killing of Julius Tate Jr. by Columbus police.

In the next few weeks, Chief Thomas Quinlan will review how to move forward with recommendations. He expects bureau commanders and managers to address recommendations from the commission and Matrix Consulting, and review cost projections.

Chief Quinlan has reportedly already begun to address some of the recommendations, including implementing a Police Initiated Diversion Program for arrested juveniles and finding opportunities to involve more of the community into recruit training that improves cultural competency.

A civilian review board has been mentioned many times from the community, said Mayor Ginther. He went on to say he would look at best practices from around the country, “figuring out what works best for Columbus and engaging in good faith with the FOP and other community partners on how we might go about getting that done.”

“You have to have an entity that holds the community accountable, in this case the division of police and the city, me, and is reporting out to the community about progress that’s being made, and maybe shining light on things that maybe aren’t happening as quickly as they should,” said Ginther.

Ginther said he wanted to make sure the division is “reform-minded” and concerned with change, adding that despite the cost of executing recommendations, he said the city has to move with a “sense of urgency.”

“Training, embedding a culture of diversity and inclusion within the division, acknowledging the fact that racism and discrimination is real, and us — the division and the city — acknowledging that and owning the remedy for moving forward,” said Ginther. “Those are the things that I think the people of Columbus want to see, expect to see, and deserve to see.”

The full Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission Report can be read at www.columbus.gov/SafetyCommissionAppendices.

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