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Columbus City Council Holding Hearing On Demilitarizing Police

A Columbus Police officer aims a pepper spray cannister at a protester's face on May 30, 2020.
Katie Forbes
A Columbus Police officer aims a pepper spray cannister at a protester's face on May 30, 2020.

Columbus City Council on Tuesday is holding its first hearing on removing military-grade equipment from the Columbus Division of Police. 

Council president pro tem Elizabeth Brown announced the hearing a week ago after Columbus Police deployed pepper spray to break up demonstrators. Brown says the city will use an Obama-era executive order restricting military surplus purchases as a baseline for new, local purchasing guidelines.

“Right now we don't have restrictions on what we're allowed to buy or what we're banned to buy,” Brown says. “So we want to create those parameters so the public knows exactly what we're OK with and exactly what we're not OK with.”

The 4 p.m. hearing will be livestreamed on Facebook and residents can participate via WebEx.

As part of the hearing, Brown says Columbus Police will present an accounting of what military-grade equipment they currently have. The hearing comes amid a broader effort by Council to "reimagine public safety" and redirect funding to social services.

Last week, Council members announced a slate of police reforms they said would be passed by the end of the July. Among the changes were a ban on no-knock warrants, like the one that led to the Louisville Police killing of Breonna Taylor, a requirement to background check new officers for hate group activity, and the shift of use-of-force cases to independent investigators.

The Fraternal Order of Police did not respond to a request for comment.

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.