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Ginther Expects To Look Outside Columbus Police Ranks For Next Chief

Columbus Police vehicles outside the division headquarters.
David Holm
Columbus Police vehicles outside the division headquarters.

Columbus is preparing a search for its next police chief after Mayor Andrew Ginther asked former Chief Tom Quinlan to step aside. The mayor is taking responsibility for the initial hire and a tumultuous tenure.

For the first time last year, Columbus looked outside its ranks for a new police chief in a nationwide search. In the end Ginther decided to stick with an internal hire, Quinlan. His time leading the division has been rocky.

Columbus set a record for homicides in 2020, and the division’s repeated pleas for residents to come forward with information underscored the lack of trust between officers and the community.

Harsh police enforcement during protests for racial justice last summer did nothing to improve relations. Then in December, former officer Adam Coy shot and killed Andre Hill during an early morning non-emergency service call.

Ginther says the next chief will have to focus on restoring trust with the community.

“I’m looking for a transformational leader,” Ginther says. “A change agent that knows how and has a demonstrated record in history of changing culture, bridging the divide between the police and the community and a commitment to making sure that officers are held accountable.”

The firm that led the last search will be assisting the city in finding candidates again. Ginther says this time he strongly favors looking to an outside candidate to lead the division.

“I feel very strongly that we do need an outside perspective and a leader from the outside to help us change the culture at the division of police,” Ginther says.

Quinlan was selected to lead the police division over retired Seattle Assistant Police Chief Perry Tarrant in December 2019.

Although the mayor acknowledges Quinlan had made progress during the past year at addressing racism in the ranks and implementing reforms laid out in a 300-page independent report by Matrix Consulting, Ginther says the community had lost faith in the chief.

Just as the mayor had to make a call on the chief’s future, the mayor understands voters will judge him on his record, too.

“We will have another election in 2023, and the people of Columbus will decide whether or not the equity agenda, police reform, and focusing on our opportunity neighborhoods is the direction they want to go in or a different direction,” Ginther says. “I trust the people of Columbus.”

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.