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Columbus Leaders Ask For Community Input On Police Reforms

Protestors stand in the street holding signs that spell out Casey Goodson Jr.'s name.
Paige Pfleger
Protestors stand in the street holding signs that spell out Casey Goodson Jr.'s name.

Columbus City Council is asking for public input on policing ahead of a series of town halls that begin next week. 

City leaders instituted some police reform this summer, passing a number of measures including a ban on no-knock warrants. But the law enforcement killing of two Black men in December, Casey Goodson Jr. on December 4 and Andre Hill on December 22, has only increased calls for longer-term action.

City Council President Shannon Hardin says their focus hasn’t wavered.

"We committed that we would be in this for the long run," Hardin says. "This is what the long run looks like. This is us being committed to real reform."

Beginning next Wednesday, Council is hosting a series of town halls corresponding with a survey on police reform.The first hearing will be on alternatives to police response – an issue spotlighted by the death of Hill, who was killed by a Columbus Police officer responding to a non-emergency call.

“If anybody wants to pull back the veil and ask and understand what my ultimate goal out of this moment is, in our history, in our city, in terms of reform, it is to create this alternative response for crisis,” Hardin says.

The survey lays out a series of potential concerns like noise complaints, domestic disputes or public intoxication, and asks how comfortable residents would feel with alternative responses. One set focuses on police officers working in tandem with another crisis responder, like the city’s mobile crisis response units. Others ask about responses that avoid police entirely.

Hardin says he hears those criticizing the slow pace of change, but encourages them to participate.

"I understand their cynicism, but—but I also know that they're just as committed for the long run as well,” Hardin says. “I know that they're in this for the long run because it's that's important and so I am asking them to again roll up their sleeves, be a part of this process."

The city will be accepting survey responses through January 22, and Hardin says they’ll bring what they find into the budgeting process in February. The city will release more details on its town hall hearings Monday.

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.