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Columbus Council Pulls Back On $1 Million For Police Vehicle Upgrades

Police vehicles parked in front of Columbus Division of Police headquarters.
David Holm
Police vehicles parked in front of Columbus Division of Police headquarters.

As protesters call for Columbus to cut police funding, and city leaders promise to demilitarize the division, Columbus Council members have chosen to hold off on approving $985,000 for police vehicles.

On Monday, Columbus Council was set to sign on off on a measure to “up-fit” public safety vehicles like police cars. The list included 51 patrol cruisers, six interceptors, five K-9 cars, three prisoner transport vehicles, two sergeant cruisers and a fire vehicle.

The measure was initially listed as part of the agenda for Monday's meeting, but it was removed along with two other provisions late Friday. A council spokesman explained items regularly fall off the agenda as it is finalized ahead of hearings. The proposal, which would cost $1,052,707 in all, was previously tabled on June 1.

While the timing seems odd, coming just after Council pledged to overhaul the police budget, the spending comes from contracts approved years ago. The city began contracting with the company Parr Public Safety Equipment in 2014. Since then, Council has appropriated just over $4 million to the company for various fleet services, from police car upgrades to a horse trailer.

On Tuesday, Columbus Council is holding a public hearing on police demilitarization. Council president pro tem Elizabeth Brown proposed changing the city's purchasing code to restrict what equipment the department can buy. The virtual hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. 

"The presence of our officers should never look or feel to residents as if we are at war," Brown said last week.

Columbus Police account for more than a third of the city's $1 billion annual budget.

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.