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Columbus Police Union Files Grievance, Seeks Extension For Adam Coy Arbitration

Keith Ferrell, president of the union representing Columbus police officers, discusses the union's intent to wait on additional facts before deciding whether to challenge the firing of officer Adam Coy, on Jan. 11, 2021.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Associated Press
Keith Ferrell, president of the union representing Columbus police officers, discusses the union's intent to wait on additional facts before deciding whether to challenge the firing of officer Adam Coy, on Jan. 11, 2021.

The leaders of Columbus’ police union are asking for an extension in seeking arbitration for Adam Coy, the former officer who was fired after killing Andre Hill.  

City leaders moved remarkably quickly to fire Adam Coy because he failed to activate his body camera and provide first aid to Hill, who he fatally shot while responding to a non-emergency call December 22. Typically the union has 14 days to appeal that decision through arbitration.

But Keith Ferrell, who heads up the local Fraternal Order of Police, argues they need information from Coy’s criminal investigation before determining whether to appeal.

“We very possibly may not ever arbitrate that case,” Ferrell says. “But we can’t make that decision legally until we have that information. That’s why we asked for the extension and that’s why we would file to simply hold the time. It does not mean we are, or are not, arbitrating that case.”

Coy and another officer, Amy Detweiller, encountered Hill in a neighbor's garage in northwest Columbus early in the morning on December 22. Hill was holding a cellphone in his hand and took a few steps towards the officers when Coy raised his gun and fired multiple times. However, because neither officer activated their body cameras until after the shooting, there is no audio available of their encounter.

Detweiller later said that she did not perceive Hill as a threat, but that Coy had shouted that Hill had a gun. Hill was in fact unarmed, and had been invited to come over by the homeowners.

Coy was relieved of duty that day, and on Christmas Eve, Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan announced that he would recommend Coy's termination – bypassing his usual step of meeting with an officer first. Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus held a disciplinary hearing for Coy the following Monday, but Coy did not attend – although members of the FOP appeared on his behalf – and ultimately moved to dismiss him from the department.

Ferrell announced the union has filed a grievance with the city on behalf of its membership arguing Coy did not receive due process. 

“We file those grievances periodically when it’s an issue that affects the entire membership,” Ferrell explains. “There are multiple, roughly six, different articles in the contract that were violated when it came to due process in that case.”

Ferrell argues if providing heightened first aid on the scene is an expectation, the division needs to up training for officers and provide additional equipment. The city has said there is a second internal investigation into officers on the scene who had declined to aid Hill, and who failed to activate their body cameras, but no additional charges have been announced yet.

“I think you need to understand the level of training from a medic compared to a police officer is drastically different,” Ferrell says. “Those people are extremely qualified and well trained to do that. It’d be like telling a medic to go handle a bank robbery—well they’re not trained to do that.”

Asked if anything about on the bodycam footage bothered him, Ferrell acknowledges he has not seen “that entire video,” because he wants to maintain some level of independence.

The police have released footage from dozens of officers who responded to the scene. The footage shows officers handcuffing an unresponsive Hill minutes after he was shot, but none provided even rudimentary first aidfor roughly 10 minutes. 

Hill's family has called for murder charges against Coy, and for the department to fire Detweiler and other officers involved.

A state criminal investigation into Hill's death is ongoing. Coy's attorney said in late Decemberthat the fired officer likely will not speak with investigators, citing the right to not self-incriminate.

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.