The Public Safety Committee of Columbus City Council held a public budget hearing on December 7. Community members showed up to remind Council that city budget priorities have grave consequences for the citizens they represent.
They were joined by Nia Malika King, the mother of teenager Ty’re King who was killed by Columbus police on September 14. December 7 would have been Ty’re’s 14th birthday.
“Today Ty’re King should be planning for the holidays with his family,” People’s Justice Project organizer Tammy Alsaada told City Council members. “This holiday season the King family will have their first Christmas with a big, unfillable hole in their homes. The People’s Justice Project wants to move from prisons and policing to prevention and programs. We want to reinvest in evidence-based practices that actually keep our communities safe. Unless we change those priorities, Ty’re will not be the last child we lose.
“The City of Columbus is asking for an additional $8.4 million in the bond package for police facility improvements,” Alsaada said. “We want new funds brought in for the police to instead be put into facilities for trauma recovery and healing in communities that have been hardest-hit by violence. We want to move to a budget where at least 50 percent of policing budgets are invested in prevention, intervention, and community-controlled policing.”
Alsaada repeated the call for a transparent, independent investigation of the deaths of Ty’re King, Henry Green, and all future police-involved shootings. Henry Green was killed in June by undercover officers as part of the Community Safety Initiative.
After the People’s Justice Project shut down a City Council meeting, on October 3 Council President Zach Klein promised to re-evaluate the Community Safety Initiative and consider alternative policing strategies. Three days later, the Division of Police reported that the Community Safety Initiative has been a successful program.
“Ultimately each one of you is responsible,” Jasmine Ayres told City Council at the budget hearing. “You’re responsible for passing the budget that pays for the cops, responsible for negotiating the support policies with the Fraternal Order of Police, and responsible for ensuring that all citizens are treated equally, regardless of zip code or race.”
Ayres cited a report by Community Safety Initiative Director Gary Cameron as evidence that the program does not work. She quoted:
- There is a long-standing observation from law enforcement that the summer months and warmer weather bring an increase in violent crime…. This fact, combined with the closing of schools for the summer recess, firmly demonstrates the need for enhanced policing services during the summer.
- Looking more closely at the reported homicide numbers in Columbus, we can report a seasonal spike upward during the summer months or in other words, occurring during the Community Safety Initiative operating period.
- 2014 – 30 2015 – 34 2016 – 32
“If there’s a long-standing trend of violence in the summer, and the Summer Safety Initiative is not decreasing those numbers, why does it continue to be funded?” Ayres asked.
“You don’t stop crime with more bullets,” she said. “You stop crime with good jobs, fair wages, good trauma recovery programs, and positive relationships between the community and police. It’s clear that what the city is doing is not working.”
“I’m willing to sit down with them and talk about their concerns,” said Police Chief Kim Jacobs. “I think there’s some information that we could share that might give some context.”
Public Safety Committee Chair Mitchell J. Brown asked City Safety Director Ned Pettus to respond. “Chief Jacobs and I would be delighted to sit down with them and have dialogue,” Pettus said. No other Council members on the budget committee made a comment or asked a question. In other words, any meaningful dialogue about the Community Safety Initiative will take place behind closed doors.
Issues raised by the public in the City Council chamber, and Council members’ response to them, are not broadcast on the Columbus Government Television channel. Video and audio recording are turned off while citizens’ concerns are aired.
After the budget hearing, family and friends of Ty’re King gathered at the Brentnell Community Center for a vigil to remember his birthday. Children released 14 glow-in-the-dark balloons into the night sky.