Residents to Vote on Civilian Police Review Board in November
On Monday, July 27, Columbus City Council will vote on legislation to amend the Columbus City Charter to allow for the creation of an independent civilian police review board, a proposal that will be voted on by Columbus residents during the general election in November.
This announcement came during a morning press conference on Monday, July 20.
The amended city charter will establish a framework for the civilian review board independent of the Columbus Division of Police, the Department of Public Safety, and the Offices of the Mayor and City Council. The city charter will also give voters the opportunity to vote on the issue.
The civilian review board, which was one of the major topics and recommendations from the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission’s report earlier this year, would have the authority to conduct independent investigations of Columbus Division of Police use of force incidents, subpoena power, access to all documents involved in a case, and the ability to recommend disciplinary action.
An amended city charter would include provisions to ensure the staffing, funding and operation of a permanent board that cannot be “diminished” in power by current or succeeding officials without approval by voters, said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther at the press conference on Monday.
The proposed city charter amendment would also include a Department of the Inspector General for the Columbus Division of Police “as an independent investigatory body” fully funded and staffed by the civilian review board, which is subject to negotiation with the Fraternal Order of Police.
Mayor Ginther mentioned during the press conference that civilian police review boards in other cities have run into issues with prioritizing the funding and staffing of their boards.
“We’ve got to make sure we have the very best and brightest serving on this board, that they…are properly resourced and funded, so they’re able to do the work that the people of Columbus are going to charge them to do,” he said.
The civilian review board and the Department of the Inspector General will have its own budget, likely coming out of the city’s general budget or the Department of Public Safety’s budget, specifically.
Mayor Ginther said the passage of the amendment by Columbus voters would “demonstrate clear public support for police reform from the people of Columbus” after which the FOP “could decide on which side they stand — with the people or against them.”
Once the amendment is passed by voters, City Council will be able to add specifics in regards to the process, authority and duties of the board through ordinances. This will take place as the FOP union contract is renegotiated later this year and continue as the contract is updated in the future.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, who also spoke at the press conference, said amendments to the city charter will not challenge Ohio collective bargaining laws or the collective bargaining process.
A working group has been seated that will determine the details regarding the civilian review board and the Department of the Inspector General. The civilian review board is expected to be established by the end of the year.