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Columbus Holds Community Forum For Police Chief Search

Community members gather at the Columbus Urban League on June 25, 2019, to discuss what they want from a new Columbus Police chief.
Adora Namigadde
Community members gather at the Columbus Urban League on June 25, 2019, to discuss what they want from a new Columbus Police chief.

The city of Columbus held a community forum Tuesday night to hear from residents about what they want in the next Columbus Police chief.

Inside the Columbus Urban League, around 30 residents broke into small groups to discuss what they want to see in the next chief, who will take over after Kim Jacobs left in February. The city launched its first-ever nationwide searchin April.

Gregory Lee already knew he wanted someone who will be transparent.

“I want someone who's gonna provide transparency, accountability, and provide some sort of civilian oversight,” Lee said. “Not just something with nice public face, but actually something with teeth.”

Lee also picked up some ideas from the people at his table.

“One of the people in my group brought up unconscious bias training, and I think that's really important,” Lee said. “And another person was talking about having police officers live in the communities and function with some sort of compassion.”

Columbus resident Paisha Thomas said she wants a chief who is able to conduct themselves in different cultures.

“I want them to be multi-cultured. I want them to be culturally aware,” Thomas said. “Like one of our participants said, not just from training but from lived experience.”

She wants the chief to end what she calls the murder of black people.

“I want them to stop getting away with it,” Thomas said.

The community forum at Columbus Urban League was the fifth since city's search kicked off this spring. Officials are taking notes to aid them in selecting the new leader.

“I know what I'm looking for in our next chief. I'm looking for a change agent, a reformer,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther said. “Someone who uses the recommendations of the community-led safety advisory commission, to use those recommendations as a road map to guide the division's approach to neighborhood policing and improve community police relations."

Ginther noted that around 2,500 people have filled out the city’s online survey asking what people want in a new chief.

“The people who come in through these doors, they don't see the police department in the same light as some other communities do," said Columbus Urban League president Stephanie Hightower. "So the folks that come into our doors when they think about police they think about policing as opposed to protecting and serving."

The next forum will be held at St. Stephen's Community House on Thursday evening.

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.