Black woman

In the world of policing where white men have set the rules for generations, two Black women will now be critiquing those rules in the city of Columbus—but they bring very different sensibilities to the task.

Janet Jackson is the first Chair of the Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB). Jacqueline Hendricks is the first Inspector General (IG).

Columbus voters approved the creation of their jobs in an amendment to the city charter in 2020. Mayor Andrew Ginther hand-picked Jackson, who previously served as city attorney and a municipal court judge. She was recently elected by the other ten members of the board for a second (and last) one-year term.

By all appearances, Jackson hand-picked Hendricks over serious objections from at least one board member, in a less than transparent process. With 35 years of criminal justice experience, Hendricks had retired from the Detroit Police Department and was working for the first Inspector General's office there when she applied for the Columbus position.

It has been almost two years since Ginther announced the ballot initiative, which requires that the new board will begin receiving complaints from residents and visitors by July 11, 2022. Actions that occurred after April 12 will be reportable. The Inspector General’s office will receive those complaints and conduct the investigations.

Jackson has worked diligently, almost desperately, for a year to keep the public out of their business. She often reminds the board members of how they cannot have more than five of them together at a time, lest it would become a public meeting. She has violated public meeting laws at several meetings, without apologies. She has coached the board members on how to avoid the media.

Hendricks is the dawn to Jackson's night—preparing to shine a light on the whole process.

Hendricks picked her office at 50 West Town Street, Suite 100, to be on a major bus line. She intends to publish a phone number very soon that will be staffed by real people, ready to answer questions. She intends to be out in the community learning how to be the best community servant she can be to her new hometown. 

Hendricks said, “The duties and responsibilities that this office will have are all mandated by the charter.” However, she went on to explain, “I’m still guided by whatever is in the policies and procedures for the collective bargaining agreement” (with the Fraternal Order of Police.)

Her goal is to build trust and respect between the community and the police—a stark contrast with Jackson's obvious avoidance of the community she has served for four decades. Recall how in the late 1990s, Jackson, then city attorney, successfully fought a federal consent decree issued against the Division by the Department of Justice, something Columbus police still brag about to this day. 

As a brand new agency, the Inspector General's office is still establishing its policies and procedures. What we know at this point is that it will take complaints regarding the misconduct of sworn officers, similar to the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Columbus Division of Police—the key difference being the complaint against a CPD officer will not be investigated by other CPD officers. The 18 sergeants who staff the IAB currently receive an average of 35 complaints against officers per month.

Only six potential investigators have received offers from Hendricks to begin later in May. They will conduct the investigations and deliver their findings within ninety days to the board who will then determine any disciplinary or policy recommendations.

The IG's office will also look for problematic patterns that indicate a need for policy changes or more training of officers. During the May meeting of the CPRB, she highlighted a function of the case tracking software that will allow her to track an officer’s history. These findings will also be submitted to the board for consideration.

Hendricks says her main goal is procedural justice and that all of her office’s investigations will be fact-based.  She said, “I take the role very seriously and will try to do my best.”  

To hear my full interview with IG Hendricks, check out The Future of Policing Podcast on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.