“We are highly concerned and extremely disappointed Nationwide is insuring Atlanta’s ‘Cop City’”

When Circleville police officer Ryan Speakman sic’d his German Shepard “Serg” onto Jadarrius Rose, was the officer trying to fulfill a “Try That in a Small Town” fantasy? It was July 4, after all. 

Juxtaposed to this in Columbus is the rat-ta-tat-tat echo of gun violence. Four officer-involved shootings in a month, and one officer charged with murder. Bullets flying in all directions at Westgate Park and the Great Southern parking lot. Guns are now the leading cause of death of children.

The disturbing and laughable irony is that the Ohio GOP’s love affair with permitless carry is going to mean more money for police in the long run.

Jadarrius Rose was driving a semi when ordered by state troopers to pull over for no good reason – a missing mud flap on a perfectly sunny day. The truth is Rose was profiled (he’s African American).

Yet the fallout from Central Ohio’s latest police brutality may be far greater than a small-town cop getting fired and Rose scarred for life.

“Governor DeWine after [the Circleville incident] kind of renewed the ‘I think we need a training center’ idea,” said Emily Cole, executive director of Ohio Families Unite for Political Action and Change (OFUPAC). This is the lobbyist arm of Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality, which was founded by Sabrina Jordan of Dayton who lost her son to police brutality in 2017. Jordan’s nonprofit represents 700 Ohio families who have also lost a loved one since the turn of the century to police violence.

“DeWine actually said in an interview that ‘We should have a joint training center. Maybe we’ll commission a study for this great tactical training center because clearly, we need more training,’” said Cole.

The $90 million “Atlanta Public Safety Training Center” under construction has been dubbed “Cop City” by activists. And according to Cole and others, a small group of officials and politicians in Ohio want to bring a similar training center to Central Ohio.

Cole says a commission is forming at the Statehouse, named “The Joint Law Enforcement Training Center Study.” The commission was given a deadline of July 2024 to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor, the General Assembly, the Attorney General, among others.

Atlanta’s “Cop City” is just one of many new training facilities that will come online in the near future. Jurisdictions across the country have approved massive investments in training facilities, including Newark, New Jersey ($49 million), Port St. Lucie, Florida ($24.7 million) and Corpus Christi, Texas ($21 million). Earlier this year Chicago opened a facility nearly twice the cost of Atlanta’s proposed effort.

Like Jadarrius Rose, Cynthia Brown’s nephew, Kareem Ali Nadir Jones, was approached by Columbus police in 2017 for no good reason. The situation spiraled out of control, and Jones was shot and killed by police.

Brown is a spokesperson for the Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity, which is seeking to end Qualified Immunity for law enforcement (and instead adding professional liability insurance) through a citizen-led initiative to change Ohio’s constitution. Qualified Immunity makes it nearly impossible to sue law enforcement for brutality, one reason why Ohio’s Secretary of State and Republican Frank LaRose urged a “yes” vote on Issue 1 – which of course went down hard.

Brown has also kept watch for a potential training center in Columbus. Since the death of George Floyd, she says, Governor DeWine has allocated an extra $400 million for Ohio’s law enforcement. Last week DeWine gave $35 million to 309 first responder agencies to help with retention. Brown suggests DeWine may also take money from COVID relief funds – in the billions – to give more raises to police, fire and EMS, and also build them a massive training Center.

“As far as my research shows, [there is] not one penny for mandatory de-escalation training, racial bias training, priority CPR, or mandatory professional liability insurance,” said Brown.

Brown often makes it clear: The Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity (OCEQI) is not “anti-police.” They are against “police killings of unarmed innocent people and the lies and the cover-up.” Brown also believes if any future Ohio law enforcement center included de-escalation training and racial bias training, then she and the OCEQI would support it.

“The bottom line is this,” she says, “if the Republican controlled super majority in Ohio wants to fund $100 million dollars or more from the extra COVID funds, then they are going to do that.”

Brown says according to OCEQI’s financial supporters – which includes the founders of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Americans For Prosperity, the National Campaign to End Qualified Immunity and Campaign Zero – any new law enforcement training center should focus on de-escalation training, racial bias training and training to better handle “Terry Stops,” which allows the police to briefly detain a person based on reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminal activity.

“Any new center will build stronger relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” says Brown. “My mission is to replace Qualified Immunity with Professional Liability Insurance. Weed out the bad officers. Ricky Anderson [the Columbus police officer who shot and killed Donovan Lewis] had over 60 complaints.”

OFUPAC, says Cole, will steadfastly be against any future “Cop City” in Columbus or the rest of Ohio. But it very well could be Central Ohio considering locally-based Nationwide Insurance’s connection to Atlanta’s future law enforcement center.

“We are highly concerned and extremely disappointed Nationwide is insuring Atlanta’s ‘Cop City,’” she says. “Not only is this a threat to urban communities across Atlanta, but the role of Nationwide in Atlanta is also a threat signaling an appetite for a future Cop City in Ohio. Any attempt to ensure any form of Cop City anywhere in this country lets us know Nationwide is not on our side, they are on the state’s side.”