activists demand tougher federal scrutiny of Columbus police | Ohio News


By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and FARNOUSH AMIRI, Associated Press / Report for America

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The announcement that the US Department of Justice will provide technical assistance to the Columbus Police – at the invitation of the city – has done little to curb allegations by community activists that officials are not doing enough to change the department following a series of deadly police shootings against blacks.

Activists, including several religious leaders, reject the review announced by the Justice Department’s office of community policing, saying it will not bring about the necessary changes within the division, which has also been criticized for his handling of the racial issues of the past year. protests against injustice following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Activists on Thursday called on the Justice Department to launch an investigation through its civil rights division, an investigation sometimes referred to as a “model or practice” investigation that can lead to court-ordered surveillance of a service. police in trouble.

“We saw Mayor Ginther trying to calm the community down by calling on the Justice Department to review current practices within the division,” Adrienne Hood, mother of 23-year-old Henry Green, who was killed by Columbus police officers in 2016, video said Thursday.

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Hood added, “As people of faith, we demand more than scrutiny. We need a calculation that will turn law enforcement into a public security service that cares for, serves and protects all of its citizens. “

The mother-turned-activist read the letter to the Justice Department on video, imploring the department to investigate internal police practices that she said killed her son.

Ginther, a Democrat, said he agreed with the group’s position and said so when he asked the Justice Department to intervene in April. But ultimately, it was the Justice Department’s call, he said.

“That’s what we asked for, but we’re not telling the attorney general what to do and how to handle things,” Ginther said. “He doesn’t need our invitation or our request.”

A review by the PSC office or an investigation into models or practices “could help us do even more in reform, oversight, accountability and transparency,” Ginther told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The Justice Department’s civil rights division takes a number of factors into account when deciding whether to open an investigation into models or practices, including the state of local police reform efforts, said Thursday the agency in a statement to the AP.

The ministry also consults with staff from the PSC office and other justice programs, “to determine whether investigation and enforcement of type or practice is the best approach or whether other forms of intervention would be more appropriate. appropriate to address community concerns. “, the agency said.

A review of the city’s correspondence by the PA indicates that city leaders were directed to the PSC office in April when they asked the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene. The April 21 request came a day after a white Columbus officer was shot for 16 years. old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was black, as she threw a knife at a woman.

“I would eventually like to schedule a call with AG Garland, you and his team about the possibility of inviting the Department of Justice to Columbus to help us reform the Columbus Police Division,” said Zach Klein, the Columbus City Attorney, in an email. to Garland’s chief of staff, Matthew Klapper.

“We want Columbus to be the model for how things can be done when we all work together,” Klein wrote in the email obtained by the AP via a registration request.

Klapper responded the same day by introducing Klein to Robert Chapman, acting director of the COPS office.

Klein responded by welcoming the introduction. “The positive possibilities are endless, and I am confident that a partnership between Columbus and the DOJ could serve as a national model for improving policing services for communities and police,” Klein wrote.

Six days later, Columbus formally asked Chapman for a review of “Columbus'” policing operations, identifying all racial bias in policing efforts. “

In this April 27 letter, Klein and Ginther spoke of a desire to “engage voluntarily and voluntarily” with the Department of Justice. But they also said they were open to a stricter approach involving “court-ordered enforcement mechanisms.”

“If we exhaust all remedies available to us as partners and litigation becomes necessary, we will fully support these efforts as we share the ultimate goal of reforming policing practices in the city of Columbus,” the two said. leaders.

But civil rights advocates and lawyers believe the city could have done more to ensure lasting changes take place following the arrival of the Justice Department.

Ginther and town leaders have always had the option of turning down the justice offer for review and calling for an investigation where there is an enforcement mechanism through court-ordered warrants, Sean Walton said , a lawyer who represented the families of several blacks shot dead by the Columbus Police.

Walton also criticized the city’s use of the word “partnership” to describe the effort between them and justice.

“I’m more skeptical of a process where we have no responsibility,” Walton said Thursday. “And when the final decision-makers or the final authorities in terms of implementing the necessary reforms are the mayor and the director of public safety of Columbus.”

Farnoush Amiri is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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