Black woman smiling and white man talking

Janet Jackson, chair of Mayor Ginther’s Community Safety Advisory Commission and Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Capital City Lodge #9 President Keith Farrell 

The union representing the Columbus Division of Police (CPD) told the Free Press they are willing to negotiate for a civilian review board when negotiations for the next police union contract begin at the end of this year. However Janet Jackson, Chair of the Mayor's Community Safety Advisory Commission, told the Free Press she is concerned about how much opposition the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) brings to table when they negotiate what authority the civilian review board will have.

What the FOP Capital City Lodge #9 President Keith Farrell to this day is still shaking his head over, however, is the city had a chance to negotiate for a civilian review board three years ago.

“The city and the mayor had a chance three years ago to bring this to the table, but for whatever reason they did not,” Ferrell said. “We wanted to talk about it. We wanted them to bring this to the table. I was saying, ‘Let’s talk about it.’ The city had that opportunity. I honestly do not know why they didn’t.”

Ferrell continued, “I look forward to any proposal. We always listen and we will welcome any proposal. But we want them to provide details. As far as our position on the proposal, that depends on the proposal.”

The FOP wants to know: Will the civilians on the board be trained for job? Do they have any previous knowledge of law enforcement procedures? What type of authority will they have?

“There could be problems with what they want to do is not good for the citizens of Columbus that they haven’t thought through,” said Ferrell. “We need details, all I am hearing is concepts.”

The Free Press asked Mayor Ginther’s office about Ferrell’s claims, but they have yet to respond.

Ferrell said, when the city brought mandatory body cams to the table three years ago, the FOP allowed the cameras, because in part, they know they can’t strike if they disagree with a proposal.

“We agreed to that. That should show we are willing to make change,” he said. “We can’t strike. There are 1,900 officers working in the city of Columbus. If we strike, we will lose the city. We don’t have a choice but to go to arbitration.”

However, Columbus Police Chief Quinlan told demonstrators last weekend the police body cams were mostly turned off during the demonstrations because of their cost, that they couldn't charge their batteries after being on duty so long, and the protestors were videotaping them any way.

No doubt the protests have spurred Mayor Ginther to act, or give lip service to acting in the future – which may be a victory for protesters. As our downtown streets continued to erupt with protests and tear gas, the Mayor insisted a civilian review board will be brought to the negotiation table at the end of this year.

Activists are dubious that the police union contract will include a reasonable civilian review board that will have any impact on police behavior. 

Furthermore, Mayor Ginther sort of created an impromptu civilian review this week after announcing the public can send complaints and video or picture evidence of police misconduct to a three-member civilian panel, which includes two city employees and a local faith leader. Specifics about the panel and how complaints will be resolved is unclear at this time.

This is a bold move on the Mayor’s part as it bypasses CPD’s Internal Affairs, and a move that clearly riled Ferrell who held a press conference on Tuesday (June 2nd).

During the press Ferrell lambasted Mayor Ginther conference for not communicating with the union and CPD at the onset of the protests which continued to worsen into the weekend.

“I reached out to the mayor’s office, I’ve reached out to city council,” Ferrell said during his press conference. “They have not returned our calls. In an attempt to de-escalate this situation, in an attempt to work with city officials like we always agree to do and we have not heard back.”

Ferrell told the Free Press that Mayor Ginther and City Council President Shannon Hardin contacted him the day after his press conference. 

“One of the things I told them, we are in agreement more than disagreement,” he said. “We denounce racism in the city and our organization. We said the violence has to stop, and we need to separate peaceful protesters from rioters. No one likes a bad cop worse than a good cop – nobody. It bothers us, it troubles us. But we do have a job and we want to make sure our people are treated fairly. We want our community members treated fairly and our members treated fairly.”

The actions of the FOP in the past -- insisting on the the reinstatement of Officer Zachary Rosen after he kicked a man in the head as he lay on the ground, and after the shooting death of Henry Green in 2017 -- don't match up with Ferrell's contentions.  

There has been an official drive for a civilian review board by the mayor’s Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission, which presented 80 recommendations to CPD last fall. 

“When the mayor appointed me the chair of the safety commission, the FOP wrote a letter [to the Dispatch she believes] where they, in their words, said I and [several others] weren’t qualified, and shouldn’t be there,” said Jackson. “In my case, it was how I handled the US Justice Department lawsuit against the City of Columbus back in 1998 [for police civil rights abuses and excessive force]. Mayor Lashutka at the time wanted me to negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department. He did not want me to adjudicate the case, and they [the FOP] took much issue with me.”

Jackson said this is what she wants the FOP to know before they all come to the negotiating table.

“An overriding part of what we were trying to do with commission, and this is what the mayor wanted, is that the implementation of these 80 recommendations will hopefully increase the trust between many communities and the police. In many communities, officers are feared and there’s no trust. In too many communities it’s us-versus-them. We should be allies in this. I believe many of these recommendations should help us achieve that goal.”