Columbus mayor requests federal probe of police force

The request comes after the fatal police shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant

By Bethany Bruner
The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and City Attorney Zach Klein have formally requested the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a formal review to identify any 'racial bias' within the city Division of Police.

Ginther and Klein, representatives from their offices and representatives from the DOJ spoke on the phone about the request on Monday. Ginther and Klein signed a letter to the DOJ dated Tueday that formally requests the review.

Columbus Division of Police Headquarters.
Columbus Division of Police Headquarters. (Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch)

The two city leaders have asked the DOJ to "engage in a review of Columbus police operations, identifying any and all racial biases in policing efforts, and offering findings and coordinated solutions for reform."

The letter said the city has made "significant progress in recent years in police reform," citing the Matrix Consulting report and a number of recommendations issued by the mayor's Community Safety Advisory Commission, but has met "fierce opposition from leadership within the Columbus Division of Police."

"This is not about one particular officer, policy, or incident; rather, this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus," the letter said. "While we will continue to press for change through new leadership, policy changes, and collective bargaining, it has become clear we will not be able to affect the rapid, significant and sustainable change we all desire and demand without different levers of power."

The letter specifically asks the DOJ to conduct a review and issue findings evaluating the current reform efforts and make additional recommendations, assess operations and determine whether racial disparities exist. DOJ is being asked to offer remedies to any disparities that are found and to help "provide an environment that fosters trust between the Division of Police and the residents of the City of Columbus."

"We want to be partners with the DOJ to bring about meaningful, sustainable and significant reforms," the letter said.

The request indicates the city would like to have the DOJ on board for a review within 30 days, the same timeline Ginther has set as a goal for naming a new police chief.

"Not only is the elected leadership in the City of Columbus aligned with this request, but the residents of Columbus unquestionably share the same goal," the letter said.

The request comes as a group of faith leaders, as well as the family of 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant, have called for federal investigators to look into the teen's death on April 20.

Fraternal Order of Police Capitol City Lodge No. 9 President Keith Ferrell said he had just learned of the letter Wednesday afternoon and did not have any immediate comment.

(c)2021 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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