Several black men and women posing at a church

Pastor, Bernadine Kent, police officer, Khari Enaharo, Lt. Melissa McFadden, Margie Daffey, James Moss of POER, Rev. Donell Muhammad

January 21, 2019- Ohio State Representative Bernadine Kennedy Kent called for greater police accountability at the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and breakfast put on by the Police Officers for Equal Rights (POER) at the First AME Zion Church. “It is imperative as we celebrate the life of Dr Martin Luther King that we speak up and demand Police Chief Jacobs, Commander Mark Gardner, and Detective Jay Fulton receives a full, complete, and unbiased investigation by law enforcement,” Kent said.

She began her speech with a quote from King, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Kent then took “a look-back at POER’s fight,” which included documenting abuse within the Columbus Police Department that resulted in a Department of Justice investigation (DoJ) in the late 1990s that found police brutality, racial profiling, and false arrest particularly among blacks, poor whites, and women, and mishandling of complaints against officers. The DoJ then reversed course and didn't follow through with demands CPD change its culture. Currently Kent is demanding a complete, thorough and unbiased investigation into the police chief, a commander, and a detective who she alleged covered up the abuse of children and domestic violence.

Kent said, “It is not my purpose to denigrate our officers who risk their lives to protect us and remain on the side of justice, and who recognize it is their legal duty and moral responsibility to act just in all instances and with all persons; however, it is critical that we bring police misconduct out in the open and deal with it.”

Mr. Khari Enaharo, Master of Ceremonies at the event said, “Our objective in 2019 is to solve black problems. We need to find ways to minimize conflict and maximize cooperation.”

The organizers did a “pop quiz” asking children to answer basic questions about King’s life and legacy such as who did he marry – Coretta Scott, when did he become a pastor – 1954, win the Nobel Peace Prize – 1964, or have a Washington memorial opened in his name – 2011.      

Charles Traylor, a member of the community group Ad Hoc Citizen’s Police Accountability Review Board (AHCPARB) also spoke at the event about the ongoing challenges to realize local police accountability. He said, “we came to the conclusion that the Bureau of Internal Affairs does good work to investigate abuse but then their report goes right back to their supervisors.” 

Joe Motil, construction safety manager and Columbus City Council hopeful, also spoke as a member of the AHCPARB. He said, once the supervisors receive the complaint from the CPD Internal Affairs Bureau they pass the report up, and then, “once it gets to the top its basically being ignored.” Motil said this practice “essentially neuters the department of internal affairs.” This lack of independent oversight has led Motil and others to call for an official citizen review board of the police. But Motil cautioned, “We need to make sure whoever is selected are not the yes men or the lackeys of the chief of police.”