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Police Union Objects To School Visit By Ohio State Professor

Ohio State University's William Oxley Thompson Library.
Ohio State University

The Fraternal Order of Police is objecting to an Ohio State University professor’s visit to a local school because of comments he made about police on social media.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries, a history professor at Ohio State and one of the advising historians for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, is leading a workshop Thursday night at Olentangy Local School District on discussing racism with children.

Gary Wolske, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, says that’s inappropriate. 

“When a person texts or tweets things that the Fraternal Order of Police has killed more people than the Klu Klux Klan, that’s sort of outrageous,” he says.

Wolske refers in particular to a tweet from Jeffries on Oct. 29, 2017, which he sent in response to an SFGate article on the Park Service canceling a Black Panther Party legacy project in California. The Fraternal Order of Police was among the groups who criticized the proposal.

Jeffries stands by his tweet.

“Even when the Klan and other terrorist groups were the most active, far more African Americans died at the hands of police,” says Jeffries.

And Jeffries says that’s important in the context of the Civil Rights Movement.

“Members of the police were responsible for more deaths, and that was a motivating factor for African-American organizing, throughout the United States," he adds. "That is not hyperbole. That is fact."

Wolske recognizes Jeffries is qualified to lead the workshop, but says he has a history of being a part of the problem instead of the solution.

Jeffries’s talk in part of the district’s efforts to increase inclusion in the face of recent incidents of racism. Last year, racist graffiti was found in bathroom of an Olentangy High School. In March this year, students told the school board about hearing racial slurs from fellow classmates.

The event, which is scheduled for Thursday from 6:30-7:30 p.m., will encourage parents to talk about race and racism with their kids and share some techniques.

Wolske acknowledges Jeffries’ expertise in the field, but says his social media posts raise concerns about where his talk might lead.

“When you make comments that the police are responsible for killing more black people than the Klan, is that an underlying thought in his mind?" Wolske asks.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.
Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.