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Ohio officers facing charges stemming from conduct during George Floyd protests

Ohio officers facing charges stemming from conduct during George Floyd protests
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Three Columbus, Ohio, police officers are facing criminal charges over allegations of using improper force against protesters and mishandling responses to last year’s racial justice demonstrations in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. 

The Columbus Division of Police said in a press release Wednesday that it had been informed of charges filed against two officers and a sergeant, who have each been “relieved” of “their regular assignment and authority to take police action.” 

“The officers have been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the criminal investigation,” the police department added. “Once the criminal investigation is concluded, the Columbus Division of Police will conduct an administrative investigation.” 

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The charges were filed by special prosecutor Kathleen Gerber and independent investigator Rick Wozniak, who were asked by the city of Columbus to investigate allegations of excessive force used in police responses to last year’s protests. 

Two of the officers, Traci Shaw and Phillip Wallis, have been charged with assault, dereliction of duty and interfering with protesters’ civil rights, while Sgt. Holly Kanode faces charges of dereliction of duty and falsifying information about a protester’s actions toward another officer. 

Gerber said in a statement that she was “asked by the City of Columbus to independently evaluate the allegations of police misconduct from last summer’s protests so that both citizens and police officers are held to the same standard of accountability.” 

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“We appreciate the community’s patience over the past year while we have made continued attempts to interview witnessing officers and identify officers committing the alleged misconduct during the protests," she said. 

The special prosecutor added that her team was “continuing the investigations into possible misconduct by other officers," and “will also continue with investigations with respect to identified officers pending the arbitrator's decision."

Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus said in a statement following the announcement of the charges that the investigation “is important, necessary work.” 

“Answers and accountability are what the people of Columbus demand, and deserve,” he added. 

The charges come after a federal judge in April ordered that Columbus police be prohibited from using force against nonviolent protesters, describing officers’ use of tear gas, pepper spray and other physical violence las summer as “the sad tale of officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok.”

Chief Judge Algenon L. Marbley of the Southern District of Ohio also ordered that officers be barred from using flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, body slams or kettling against nonviolent protesters. Kettling refers to the confining of protesters in a small area.