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New Commission Aims To Improve Columbus Police-Community Relations

Adora Namigadde
Mayor Andrew Ginther appointed 17 members to a new advisory commission, which will review Columbus Police policies and training.

For the newly-formed Community Safety Advisory Commission, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther drew members from all corners of the city. 

“This group includes community leaders, former and current safety officers, frontline social service providers, faith leaders and academics,” Ginther says. “They live in neighborhoods across our great city and just as importantly serve more communities in their volunteer and professional lives.”

The commission will conduct a review of Columbus Police recruitment and training policies, with the ultimate goal of suggesting departmental reforms. Ginther appointed 17 people—six more than he originally planned. In total, 132 people applied.

Janet Jackson, the retired president of United Way of Central Ohio and former city attorney, will lead the commission. She says they'll also work on Ginther's plan to double the number of minority police officers in the next decade.

“Each commissioner brings a unique perspective to the commission," Jackson says. "A mentor to New Americans, a lifelong social worker, current and former safety officers and community leaders and activists."

The full list of commissioners includes:

  • Janet Jackson, retired CEO of United Way of Central Ohio
  • Brooke Burns, Office of the Ohio Public Defender
  • Emily Buster, Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services
  • LaShaun Carter, Franklin County Children Services
  • Tammy Fournier-Alsaada, Ohio Organizing Collaborative
  • Dr. Chenelle Jones, Franklin University
  • Dr. Vlad Kogan, The Ohio State University
  • Matthew McCrystal, State of Ohio Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management Agency
  • Ellen Moore Griffin, Community Crime Patrol
  • Andrea Morbitzer, Nationwide Children's Hospital
  • Pastor Jason Ridley, Allegheny West Conference of Seventh-Day Adventist
  • Traci Shaw, Columbus Division of Police
  • Erin Synk, LNE Group
  • Oleatha Waugh, Columbus Urban League
  • Mary Wehrle, Jewish Family Services
  • Tiffany White, Progressive Insurance Companies
  • Reginald Wilkinson, Connecting the Dots, LLCsioners

Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs will not serve on the commission, but she’s looking forward to it as a way to improve community relations and hopes to be involved somehow.
“I think Janet Jackson is gonna control what goes on at the meetings. So I would assume she would like me to address them at some point in time, but that hasn’t been worked out,” Jacobs says. “I think Janet needs to decide how she wants to involve all of us—if it’s me, if it’s more of my staff.”

Jacobs—who played no part in selecting the members—says as commissioners learn more about policing, they may widen their scope. She says there’s an education gap.

“If you don’t understand how the law works in case law that’s been ruled on, it may be difficult for them to make recommendations about the use of force,” Jacobs says. “So they’ll have to get informed, if they’re not already, on what is legal.”

Tammy Fournier Alsaada, lead organizer of the People’s Justice Project, regularly calls for police reform in the city. She says she’s surprised she was selected for the commission.

“I didn’t think they would pick someone who’s pushing back so aggressively about the leadership here in this city," Alsaada says.

She’s hopeful that the commission will discuss issues important to the black people for whom she advocates.

“There has to be a way for a community that’s policed the most in our city, and I’ve said this again and again, to weigh in on how we’re policed, and we have to get to a place where we are willing to acknowledge that the black community is policed more aggressively than other communities,” Alsaada says.

The commission’s first meeting will be next month. In a couple of weeks, the city plans to hire an independent consultant to help the commission with its work.

Over the coming weeks, the Safety Commission will announce public meeting dates and opportunities for the public to join in in its work.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.