Justice Department to review police practices in Columbus after fatal shootings
The mayor of Columbus, Ohio, announced Thursday that the Justice Department will be reviewing the conduct of the city’s police force following a string of shootings that killed Black residents.
“This is an important day for the future of policing in Columbus,” Mayor Andrew J. Ginther (D) said 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.”
Ginther and city attorney Zach Klein first asked for the review after a white police officer shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager.
Body camera footage from the officer showed Bryant, 16, lunging with a knife toward a woman before being fatally shot. Bryant was killed on April 20, the last day of the high-profile trial of Derek Chavuin, the former Minneapolis officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd.
Also in April, the Columbus City Council published a report saying the police department was “unprepared for the size and energy of the protests” that were sparked by the killings of Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Two Black men — 27-year-old Miles Jackson and 47-year-old Andre Hill — were also shot and killed by Columbus police within the past year.
The Justice Department review in Columbus will be different from the pattern-of-practice reviews that Attorney General Merrick Garland has opened in Phoenix, Louisville and Minneapolis since being confirmed in March.
Pattern-of-practice reviews have historically been one of the agency’s most effective tools when working with police departments that have significant allegations of civil rights violations. Oftentimes, the reviews lead to consent decrees — formal agreements between the federal agency and the police department that mandate reforms.
Instead, the review in Columbus will be conducted through the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office.
The office’s acting director, Robert E. Chapman, said in a statement Thursday that the Justice Department will work with the Columbus Police Department (CPD) “to provide technical assistance in a variety of areas. The areas identified by CPD as a focus of the technical assistance may include: policy reviews and evaluation, and associated training; recruitment, with a focus on diversity; technology, including establishing an early intervention system and better integration of systems; staffing (specifically areas where civilianization can be leveraged); and leadership training.”
The office has support from President Biden, who ran on increasing its funding.
Biden has requested $651 million for the program in fiscal year 2022, an increase of $265 million from current funding levels.
The goal of the office is to assist local police departments increase their commitments to community policing through a variety of ways, including funding for training programs and hiring grants for more officers.