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Former Member Of Columbus Police Chief Search Committee Wants External Hire

Tom Quinlan was demoted in February as Columbus Police chief.
Adora Namigadde
Tom Quinlan was demoted earlier this month as Columbus Police chief.

As Columbus launches a nationwide search for a new Police Chief, following the demotion of Tom Quinlan earlier this month, a member of the previous search committee says the city must hire someone from outside the department in order to institute change.

Rev. Jeffrey Kee, pastor of New Faith Baptist Church of Christ, served on the 2019 committee that led to the hiring of Quinlan, who was serving as interim police chief. Quinlan is white, and was picked over Black former Seattle assistant police chief Perry Tarrant.

Speaking on WOSU's All Sides With Ann Fisheron Wednesday, Kee said he did not support Quinlan for police chief and is not surprised the promotion didn't work out.

“Many times, when you have that camaraderie with your colleagues and you are all blue and you're part of that fraternity and you are connected and have allegiance and alliances to institutions, it's difficult to come in and be objective and be able to do what's right for everyone,” says Kee.

Mayor Andrew Ginther asked Quinlan to resign for failing to implement reforms promised in the wake of last year's Black Lives Matter protests. The department came under fire again in December after the killing of Andre Hill by a Coulmbus Police officer, Adam Coy, who was fired by the city and charged with murder.

About 10% of Columbus Police officers are African American, while white officers make up 87% of the force. Columbus has never hired a police chief from outside the department's ranks.

“There is a culture of racism and discrimination that has been a part of the culture of Columbus policing for a very long period of time,” Kee says.

Quinlan is now serving as a deputy chief. The role of interim chief is being occupied by Deputy Chief Michael Woods, who says he will not apply for the permanent position.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.