White SUV police vehicle with red and blue on the side saying POLICE

The Columbus Police Department (CPD) is out of control. And, they are getting away with murder. Within recent years, the CPD has shown excessive and lethal force which has left several citizens dead or wounded.  Among the dead are Tyree King, Jaron Thomas, Henry Green, Donna Dalton – all victims of excessive force and brutality.

To add insult to bleeding injury all offending officers (except for one) were not charged and were returned to the force. The CPD has refused to charge their officers and they are the only entity that is allowed to review their action other than a grand jury if they kill someone.

Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther, fearing CPD or Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) backlash, has ceded his power and oversight to the police alone. Likewise, City Council is too busy counting its kickbacks from downtown developers shows little concern over excessive force by the police. There is no willingness to demand accountability from offending officers. Citizen efforts demanding justice and responsible law enforcement leadership have been ignored or papered over.

Only when the FBI came in to investigate has the CPD made efforts to clean up their act and appear interested in correcting and punishing offended officers. Recently the Vice Unit has been disbanded while the City awaits the FBI findings.

One city in our nation has had enough. In the fall of 2018, the city of Nashville, Tennessee approved a ballot initiative to create a Citizen Oversight Board. The Initiative passed with 59% of the vote. The tipping point, after years of police shootings, was the killing of Jocques Clemmons, 31, who was pulled over by the Nashville Police for a routine traffic violation. When the District Attorney refused to prosecute the white officer, the community had had enough and began organizing around a ballot initiative.

The Nashville Initiative calls for an 11-member oversight board which has the authority to review all complaints against the police department.  Great efforts were made to make certain the Board would not be tainted by the Mayor and City Council. The Board allows two representatives from the Mayor’s office and two from the City Council. The other seven members come from the community. Over 180 people applied for the seven positions. The first year’s operations budget is $1.5 million dollars to hire nine staff persons including two full time investigators.

After years of several murders of young black men at the hands Columbus Police Department and the unwillingness of our County Prosecutor to indict anyone for murder or excessive force, it is time for the people of Columbus to unite and work for a ballot initiative that will address positively and non-violently the terrible injustice that is occurring far too often in our community. The continued lack of resolve from our elected “leaders” demands action from the voting public.

Lives are in the balance. A Civilian Oversight Board would offer new opportunities to unite our community and bring back accountability to our Police Department. A ballot Initiative will become the crowbar that move along a new conversation within the City.