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Department of Justice Accepts Columbus' Invitation to Review Police Division

Columbus police cruisers
David Holm
The city's request for the Department of Justice investigation follows the April 2021 police shooting and killing of Ma'Khia Bryant and other police shootings, but Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther says the probe is about broad reform rather that a single incident.

The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to review the Columbus Division of Policeat the request of city officials.

Shortly after a Columbus police officer shot and killed 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant April 20, city officials called on federal officials to launch a probe of racial bias in the division.

New Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant describes the intervention as part of an effort to better serve the city and the division.

“This is not something we can do alone. We have to be open to the possibility that we don’t have all the answers. We must be ready to accept the feedback of experts and our residents. This is how we put together the best system we can,” she said.

Bryant has experience working the Department of Justice because her previous department in Detroit operated under a consent decree. While she admits it can be tedious, she said in the end it improved the department.

The review will be conducted by the DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, office.

City officials describe the probe as a partnership rather than the sort of civil rights investigations that lead to a negotiated consent decree between police and federal officials. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said funding for any potential recommendations will be a top priority.

“There’s a reason we invited them in. We think they can help us become better and make us into that 21st century community policing organization that the chief and I envision,” he said.

Although the request came on the heels of numerous law enforcement-involved shootings, Ginther said the review is not about broader reform and not responding to one incident.

“This is not about one particular officer, policy or incident. Rather this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus,” he said.
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Nick Evans