US Department of Justice to Review Columbus Police Department
The City of Columbus has announced the U.S. Department of Justice has accepted its invitation to review the Columbus Division of Police.
The DOJ will provide assistance through its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), according to a press release, which is responsible for improving community policing nationwide. The partnership with the city will begin immediately.
Mayor Andrew Ginther said of the move that he is “confident in the partnership and the additional tools” the office will bring.
“This is an important day for the future of policing in Columbus,” said Ginther in a statement. “This is not about one particular officer, policy or incident; rather, this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus.”
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said the DOJ would provide guidance to Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant and the division, at no cost to the city, on issues identified by the chief, and potentially provide solutions and plans for implementation.
Chief Bryant identified policy evaluation, officer and leadership training, recruitment, technology and establishing an early intervention system for officers as potential focuses of the review.
“We ask our officers to constantly train to be better, to strive for the next level of skill and excellence. This is no different,” said Chief Bryant. “Our work is too important, the stakes are too high, for us to ever be satisfied with the status quo.”
Earlier this year, the ACLU of Ohio, the Columbus NAACP, Columbus Urban League and others formally requested the DOJ to investigate the Columbus Police Department’s history of violence and misconduct targeting Black residents.
The City of Columbus has similarly requested the DOJ review the division, where Mayor Ginther noted the city welcomed “either-or” a consent decree or review from the COPS program.
Klein noted the arrangement is different from a consent decree in that it does not include a formal investigation or litigation “at this point.”
The DOJ investigated the Columbus Division of Police in 1998, resulting in the department filing a complaint against the City of Columbus. The city later reached a settlement with the DOJ in exchange for dismissal of the complaint. This is the first time the department’s COPS office will review the division.
This article has been updated to include additional details about the partnership between the DOJ and City of Columbus.