The combination of over-policing by officers who weren’t raised or reside in our community has proven deadly for decades and made Columbus the current epicenter to one of this nation’s most important social justice movements ever.

Many activists and African-Americans were already in the know, but what many others learned in 2020 is that certain neighborhoods of Columbus are over-policed. And in too many situations by officers with no roots to Columbus who were raised in rural Ohio to have prejudices against the community and many of those who live here.

“Are you aware how many black children fear and hate the police?” asks De-Escalate Ohio’s director Cynthia Brown, whose nephew Kareem Ali Nadir Jones was shot and killed by Columbus police in 2017. Police body cam footage shows the white officers did not have good reason to approach Jones who was unarmed, and when they did, they overreacted.

According to Brown, just 20 percent of Columbus police live in Columbus. The Ohio Supreme Court removed any residency requirements roughly five years ago, and before that an officer could live in any neighboring county.

The Free Press reported this past summer that the Columbus Division of Police has removed black police candidates at an alarming rate and black officers report that they believe it’s done so deliberately.

“Many (black children) panic when they see a police car or hear a siren, and many ask themselves, ‘Am I next?’ In my personal opinion I would like to see Columbus Police Department (CPD) hire more folks of color in order to build stronger relationships between law enforcement agencies and communities of color,” says Brown.

One example of over-policing is when Columbus police ticket cars illegally parked apparently at a house hosting guests for a funeral. Indeed, this happened at Casey Goodson Jr.’s mom’s home during her son’s funeral.

Some cars were parked near the home on a sidewalk. Isn’t this a situation where the police should have tried to have the owners move their cars before issuing tickets which can be detrimental to those who are struggling during a pandemic to pay bills?

Columbus police apologized for the incident and dropped the tickets, but the PR damage was done as questions linger whether the officer(s) who issued the tickets did it out of spite and revenge.

Though the public may not fully understand how stressful being an officer is, they are aware of the daily dangers. Even Barack Obama has asked, “Who’s Michelle’s mom going to call if she’s getting robbed?” Many agree we need law enforcement to stop rapists, murderers and active shooters, and the like.

But why would Columbus police officer Adam Coy and other officers refuse to help a dying unarmed man?

“Columbus police didn’t offer Kareem Ali Nadir Jones first aid as well,” adds Brown of her nephew, killed by the police.

The now-terminated Officer Coy graduated high school in rural Union County (OH). His disciplinary record has a shocking number of excessive force complaints – 82 of them reported– and numerous “discourteous language” complaints to go along with them.

“The problem is generations of systemic and institutional racism,” says Brown.

Then of course there’s Franklin County Sheriff Deputy Jason Meade, an evangelical pastor at Rosedale Baptist Church in Madison County, 30 miles outside Columbus.

“I work for the sheriff’s office…I hunt people – it’s a great job, I love it,” Meade told a large audience, as first reported by the Free Press, to the Ohio State Association of Free Will Baptists in 2018. His large audience was filled with middle-aged rural evangelical white men and also law enforcement officers.

When Meade shot and killed Casey Goodson. Jr. he was “hunting” a fugitive for a federal task force, a side gig. Goodson, we know, wasn’t a target of the task force.

But we also know that many federal task forces – which add local law enforcement for more muscle – have invaded many cities under President Trump’s Operation Legend.

When many this summer were calling to defund the police, the White House seemed to retaliate by initiating Operation Legend in July to combat increasing gun violence.

“(The) left-wing group of people that are running our cities are not doing the job that they’re supposed to be doing, and it’s not a very tough job to do if they knew what they were doing,” snarked Trump in a briefing with reporters about Operation Legend.

Did Operation Legend also quietly, if not secretly, come to Columbus and tragically backfire with Goodson’s death?

It would be the worst of ironies if our evangelical-apologist ex-President who loved to rile up the rural vote with his racist dog whistle had anything to do with Casey Goodson Jr’s death.

Also a tragic irony is how Meade went after Goodson because he was allegedly holding a gun.

A fundamental issue appears to be lost in all this tragedy: the huge number of guns in our community both held legally and illegally.

Many agree, Columbus and other urban areas are experiencing a spike in gun violence. Former progressive congressional candidate Morgan Harper told the Free Press that over the summer she’s heard firsthand the anxiety and fear this is causing. But the true explanations behind the spike are in question.

And as the Republican-dominated Ohio Statehouse and Governor Dewine recently approved a “stand your ground” law which further legitimizes guns – more guns will flood the entire community.

What’s more, gun sales spiked over the summer as conservative white America’s irrational fear over peaceful protesters grew.

Toby Hoover, director for the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, says the gung-ho gun culture perpetuated by ultra-conservative white and rural America is inspired by their fear. The problem is the proliferation of guns is now the norm throughout all of American and having terrible consequences in urban neighborhoods.

Hoover believes many guns are acquired by white people out of racial fear and then some of these guns eventually are re-sold and end up in urban communities.

“Around in circles we go with it,” says Hoover. “And these guns outlive us all.”