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City officials announce chief’s advisory panel, strict limits on chemical spray agents

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The City of Columbus held a virtual press conference on Tuesday addressing two important steps in police reform in Columbus. Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin, Police Chief Tom Quinlan, and City Attorney Zach Klein joined in on a conference call to announce members for the new chief’s advisory panel for police chief Tom Quinlan and limitations on the use of chemical spray agents by the police.

Ginther led off the discussion with a message of awareness, letting those who have taken to the streets to voice their concerns that they are being heard and Columbus leaders are taking action

“This is not just a commission or a committee that will sit idly by,” Ginther said. “The chief’s panel will weigh in immediately…significantly limiting the use of pepper spray and tear gas by the Columbus police.”

The chief’s advisory panel would allow leaders of the community–local professors, counselors, and activists–to have input on policies and procedures of the Columbus Division of Police. City officials like Ginther and Klein stressed the importance of a need for meaningful change now. 

Those community leaders include:

  • Aba Azeem, Vice Chair of the Create Columbus Commission
  • Lourdes Barosso de Padilla, Director of the Latina Mentoring Academy
  • Love Benton, Vice Chair, Black, Out and Proud
  • James Burke IV, President Columbus National Pan Hellenic Council
  • LaShaun Carter, Chief Diversity Officer at Franklin County Children Services and Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commissioner
  • Stefanie Coe, Commissioner, Civil Service Commission
  • Yaves Ellis, Pastor and Director of Community Affairs at Urban 1
  • Tammy Fournier, Founder and Organizing Director, Peoples Justice Project and Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commissioner
  • Florence Latham, Human Resources Consultant and Executive Coach
  • Kristy McCray, Associate Professor, Otterbein University
  • Diane Menashe, partner at Ice Miller
  • Andrew B. Pierce II, Undergraduate Student, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University
  • Randall Sistrunk, Director of Development, Orange Barrel Media
  • Erin Upchurch, Executive Director, Kaleidoscope Youth Center

It wasn’t part of the steps discussed on Tuesday, but Ginther did mention that the city plans to have a civilian review board by the end of the year.

The second step that was outlined in the press conference were new limitations that would be placed on the use of tear gas and pepper spray. A major area of concern that has been brought up by Columbus residents over the past few weeks has been the use of pepper spray and tear gas on peaceful protesters. 

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It was announced on Tuesday that the Columbus police department would stop the use of tear gas and pepper spray to disperse non-aggressive, non-violent crowds.

“Tear gas or pepper spray will no longer be used to break up peaceful protests, period,” Ginther said.

Klein brought up that preexisting language permitted cops to use pepper spray on people stepping into the streets. Now, the use of pepper spray for failure to leave the streets will no longer be allowed.

“Officers will be held accountable,” Ginther said. “I’m accountable to the community, and I’m going to hold the chief accountable through community expectations and standards.”

A series of photographs from the Columbus protests that made headlines across the country showed Hardin, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce being pepper-sprayed on the third day of Columbus protests.

Hardin, who described this time in history as a watershed moment, mentioned that crowd dispersal techniques need to change after experiencing it firsthand. 

“Columbus and the country have the opportunity to dream about what public safety could be,” Hardin said.

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Crime

Increase in gun violence this past weekend causes city alarm

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After eight shootings this weekend Mayor Andrew J. Ginther gathered with city officials at the Point of Pride building on Monday afternoon to discuss the alarming uptick in neighborhood violence and how the city is going to address it.

The eight shootings over the weekend involved 10 people. Three people all under the age of 26 were murdered in the shootings, the youngest being 15-year-old Marcus Peters.

Since June 1, five teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 have been killed due to gun violence, while 14 others were critically injured.

The surge in gun violence includes a 77 percent increase in shots being blindly fired into residences, 78 percent of homicides due to firearms, and 67 homicides and 469 felonious assaults, which is a 125-percent increase in felonious assaults from 2019, in 2020.

“This problem belongs to each and every one of us, and we must bring all of our resources together to address what is happening in our community,” said Ginther.

Some of the suggestions that Ginther mentioned to solving gun violence issues in Columbus included finding productive opportunities for youth during this time and taking illegal guns off the streets.

Those in attendance at the press conference were Public Safety Director Ned Pettus; Police Chief Tom Quinlan; President and CEO of the Columbus Urban League Stephanie Hightower; Interim Director of Recreation and Parks Paul Rakosky; My Brother’s Keeper Program Manager and Department of Neighborhoods member Chris Suel; and Senior Pastor of City of Grace Church Michael Young. 

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More parking meters to get technological upgrades

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The traditional parking meter will soon be nothing more than a historical relic in Columbus.

While parking payment kiosks and mobile pay parking spaces have become the new normal in parts of our city, now Goodale Park and additional downtown areas will join areas enjoying those technological upgrades. 

The new kiosks and mobile pay spaces will take the place of nearly 700 parking meters starting today. The kiosks accept credit and debit cards as well as coins for payment. The ParkColumbus mobile app is available for contactless payment–one of the reasons for the continued replacement of the old parking meters, according to a press release from the Department of Public Service.

Below you can find the specifics of when and where the parking meters will be replaced:

  • Week of July 13 – three payment kiosks will replace 247 meters on Goodale and Park streets, one kiosk will replace 57 meters in the Greenwood Ave. parking lot, and one kiosk will replace 24 meters in the Eden Alley lot
  • Week of July 20 – one kiosk will replace 86 meters between Broad and Long streets
  • Week of July 27 – mobile payment will replace 188 meters around Columbus State Community College on Long, Spring, 6th, Groves, and McCoy streets and Grant Ave.
  • Week of August 3 – mobile payment will replace 103 meters on Rich St. between 5th St. and Washington Ave.
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Empty halls make School Resource Officers nonessential

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One of the loudest demands from protestors over the recent months has been for Columbus City Schools to cut ties with the Columbus Division of Police.

While the contracts of 20 resource officers and two sergeants were not renewed by Columbus City Schools when they ended last week, it was not because of pressure from protestors. 

As the Columbus City Schools plans around COVID-19 mandates, the current need is for high school students to learn virtually from home. If that is still the case in the fall, there is no need for resource officers in the high schools.

Sgt. Joe Albert stated that they would be ready to work on a new contract if Columbus City Schools welcomes high school students back to its buildings, however, there is currently no work for resource officers when high schools are empty.

The collective bargaining agreement that the police union has with CPD states that officers must have 70 days notice before employment termination. The officers whose contracts were not renewed will be repositioned within the CPD and will have an opportunity to take other jobs within the division.

CPD is ready to re-position resource officers in high schools if the opportunity arises before the 2020-21 school year. With the increase in school violence, especially violence involving guns, resource officers have been a very important presence in schools in deterring violence.

Their presence is also extremely important in building police-community relationships.

"Making relationships with the students there (in school) provides a face to a police officer, and I know in the past many students have later on seen that police officer out on the street and they're more willing to go up and talk to that officer because they have a relationship from knowing them inside their high school."

Sgt. Joe Albert, Columbus Division of Police


While there are those who oppose students going back to school in-person due to health concerns, there are also many reasons supporting in-person classes this upcoming school year.

According to Albert, the CPD had a “tremendous uptick in gun violence involving juveniles” since the pandemic closed schools down, a major concern for the police department right now. 

Another issue is enforcing truancy. While police officers could physically visit the homes of students missing school, Albert says that there has “not been any communication on how we would enforce [truancy].”

Recreation centers and pools opening have not been enough to keep the Columbus student population out of trouble, so the school district will be faced with a tough decision about reopening schools this fall.

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