Columbus City Council passed a package of public safety measures at its July 27 meeting, including adding a Nov. 3 ballot measure for a civilian police review board.
The legislative package, referred to as the Reimagine Safety initiative, also includes limiting no-knock raids, demilitarizing the Division of Police through the purchasing code and instituting background checks for hate-group affiliation.
“Tonight, council voted on a package of legislation that is the most substantive change to public safety that I’ve seen in the past decade,” said Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin, according to a news release. “We have taken a bold first step to reimagine safety in our city, and we have a great deal of work ahead of us.”
Council voted to put a charter amendment to create an independent civilian police review board and independent investigatory body on the Nov. 3 ballot, which Mayor Andrew J. Ginther introduced at the meeting. Together, the entities would have the authority to receive, investigate with subpoena power, and recommend the resolution of complaints regarding misconduct within the Columbus Division of Police.
“Columbus is the only major city in America without civilian oversight over police,” Ginther said at the meeting prior to the vote, advocating for the reform.
Council launched the public safety initiative after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which led to nationwide protests over racist police practices and inequality. In late June, council announced the four-part legislative package to pass prior to the annual August recess, according to the release.
After the August break, council will set forward a community engagement process to Reimagine Safety, leading into the budget, the release said.
One of the ordinances passed to require background checks to screen for hate group affiliation was an idea submitted by a resident. It will expand current hiring processes to include hate group affiliation screening to check for potential issues and conflicts.
The ordinance regarding warrants limits no-knock warrants to halt entry into a business or residence without first knocking or identifying oneself as a police officer. The goal is to prevent mistakes and unlawful approaches to the wrong residence, the release said.
“We’ve seen time and time again that mistakes can be made in high-stress situations involving no-knock warrants,” said councilmember Emmanuel V. Remy, according to the release. “The most recent action involving the murder of Breonna Taylor shows that cities around the country need to do more work to protect their residents from situations similar to this.”
Another ordinance bans the purchase and use of certain military-grade equipment such as tanks, grenade launchers and riot batons by the Columbus Police Department. Banning the use of this equipment reinforces the goal of creating a community-based safety force in Columbus by balancing the needs of police officers with the people they serve, the release said.
Council also advanced CARES Act funding to the hardest-hit sectors, which together with the public safety reforms, aim to produce a “more just and equitable city,” according to the release.
“With thousands of written statements, emails and live speakers, we have received unprecedented engagement from residents in this effort,” said President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown, according to the release. “Across the city and spanning nearly every point of view, we are all in search of safer communities for ourselves, our families and our neighbors.”