© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Interim Columbus Police Chief Shuffles Officers To Handle Rash Of Violence

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

Interim Columbus Police chief Michael Woods is moving some of his detectives after a particularly violent weekend. The department responded to more than a dozen shootings in the last few days.

Woods says investigators were already facing a backlog, so he’s shifting some detectives who normally handle property crimes to the felony assault squad.

“To help them respond to these incidents, process these scenes, interview the victims, interview the witnesses, so that we can hopefully move toward an arrest in a much more timely fashion," Woods says.

Woods says the unit was handling about 175 cases a year ago – a load that was considered high at the time. They’re now working more than 250—an increase of more than 40%.

“It’s really at this point a numbers game,” Woods explains. “I need more people to investigate those violent crimes because that has the most impact on our community.”

The division is still hammering out the details of how many detectives will shift duty and for how long. Woods says he’s conscious about not neglecting property crimes as they respond to a rash of violent incidents.

Meanwhile, Columbus is embarking on another nationwide search for a permanent chief. Chief Tom Quinlan stepped down late last month at the request of Mayor Andrew Ginther, who said Quinlan was unable to impelement necessary reforms.

Woods was picked by the mayor to serve as interim chief, but says his name won’t be among those under consideration for the permanent position. Columbus has never hired a police chief from outside the department, and Ginther says he will place an emphasis on external candidates this time around.

“I’m going to serve in this capacity as long as I can,” Woods says, “but I do not plan on applying for the permanent chief’s job.”

Aside from the ongoing challenge of violent crime, Woods is also thinking about COVID-19. In a tweet Sunday, he noted the division’s coronavirus positivity rate since it began offering tests is 34%. Woods cautions the division doesn’t have a routine testing program that regularly checks officers, but rather officers can come forward to get tested when they feel symptoms.

Still, Woods is eager to get law enforcement in line for vaccination. Police officers were not included in the initial round of first responders eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Ohio.

“The last thing that I want to have happen is an officer that gets exposed is asymptomatic to the virus, but then goes to other homes and potentially exposes others," Woods says. "That’s the reason we want to get law enforcement vaccinated is to help us protect the public.”

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.