People testifying

C-PAP volunteer citizen leaders Jonathan Beard and Jasmine Ayres 

The Columbus Division of Police has a new chief in Elaine Bryant but this isn’t ceasing the mission of the Columbus Police Accountability Project or “C-PAP,” which is one month into taking sworn testimony from the community as it seeks to convince the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) that the Division “is out of control and needs federal oversight.”

So far over 30 individuals have come forward, testifying to the C-PAP’s volunteer citizen leaders in the Columbus Black community, which was announced by civil rights attorney Sean Walton at a press conference in late April.

They’re retelling stories of unconstitutional stops with no cause, unconstitutional detentions, and unlawful uses of force, among other complaints. Their treatment by Columbus police is something they vividly remember and will never forget. Many of those testified about being abused or arrested in retaliation for peacefully exercising their Free Speech rights at the George Floyd protests last summer.

“If you have stories to tell, come tell them. We can, must and will fix this,” C-PAP organizers stated in a recent press release.

The Columbus Empowerment Corporation, at 1112 E. Main Street, has offered its office space to collect testimony. C-PAP will be taking testimony on Saturdays from 1 pm to 4 pm through July 4th, and will be adding days and locations through the rest of the summer. People interested in testifying can sign up for a date and time at, and more information is hereand the group’s email is

Mayor Ginther has called for the DOJ “to review” the Division for “racial bias” but didn’t specifically call for DOJ monitoring. C-PAP’s Jonathan Beard believes this is deceptive on the Mayor’s part and makes C-PAP’s citizen-driven mission far different than what the Mayor is asking.

“He’s asked for, quote unquote, a ‘review,’ which nobody really knows what that is. It doesn’t have any statutory basis. From what I read in the Mayor’s press release, he wants for the DOJ to come in and review policies and procedures and give best practices. That’s been done before, and it hasn’t worked” says Beard, a longtime Near East progressive activist and former president for the Columbus Compact Corporation, a nonprofit community development corporation. “We’re asking for a ‘pattern-or-practices’ investigation – that’s a real thing: you can find that in federal law [42 U.S.C. Sec 14141] – I don’t know what in the hell a ‘review’ is.”

Beard continued, “You don’t have to have a major tragedy for your story to matter – your son’s name doesn’t have to be a hashtag to submit testimony. What we are proving is that unlawful policing and failure to control officers is an everyday thing in Columbus and many people have stories.”

Beard says that over a decade ago his wife was told to pull over by a Columbus police officer who was working a malfunctioning streetlight after a major storm had passed through. She objected to the officer yelling at her – asking for his name and badge number so she could file a complaint – and ultimately the officer responded by angrily arresting her under trumped up charges.

“The police have a charge they call ‘contempt of cop’ where they will arrest you just because they’re having a bad day, and then the city attorney and the whole police force will stand behind that bad policing and let it continue,” he says. “And that lack of internal discipline over the years excuses the trigger-happy policing that has caused so much pain to too many.”

In the case with his wife, Beard hired private investigators to interview witnesses, and during one interview, five police cruisers, acting on a tip from the arresting officer who received information from Internal Affairs, converged on and detained the private investigators at gun point in front of the witness, facilitating a cover-up.

“The idea behind C-PAP is we want federal oversight because our local elected officials haven’t done their job and haven’t been able to reign in an out-of-control police force,” says Beard. “Thirty years ago the Department of Justice found a pattern and practice of unlawful and unconstitutional policing and nothing has changed.”

The 1994 crime bill – sometimes referred to as the much maligned “Biden Crime Law” – had a provision which gave the DOJ the power to sue police departments for unconstitutional behavior and enter into a consent decree, which would essentially put any department under court oversight.

As many know the DOJ in 1998 sued the Columbus Division of Police to enter into a consent decree, but then-Mayor Greg Lashutka and the next Mayor (Michael Coleman), along with then-City Attorney Janet Jackson and the local FOP, were successful in convincing the DOJ to drop the suit in 2002.

“They instead entered into a settlement agreement, and there was only one year of monitoring under that, and to buy dashboard cameras, and move Internal Affairs into the community, and that’s why IA is at Long and Hamilton,” said Beard, who suggests that if the DOJ had entered into a consent decree back in the late-1990s the incident with his wife may never had happened – or at least would have been recorded on any of the five dash cams that were to have been in place and working through the settlement agreement and the officer might have been disciplined through a real Internal Affairs process, instead of promoted with a cover-up.  Or similar instances to many others, for that matter.  

“Clearly these were insufficient remedies. We need real and sustained federal oversight,” he said. 

C-PAP recently sent a request to the Mayor, City Council and the Chief of Police, asking for a unified statement that no city employee “brings hurt, harm, harassment or danger to any of these citizens who stood up to tell their truths to help make Columbus a better place for all.”

“We are calling right now on the Mayor, City Council, City Attorney and Chief of Police to make public and a unified statement within the next 48 hours that any instance of harassment or retaliation by city employees – particularly members of the Division of Police – against any of those submitting testimony,” stated C-PAP volunteer Jasmine Ayres in a press release.

City officials have not acceded to the request for a public pledge of nonretaliation.