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Incoming Columbus Police Chief Seeks To Reassure Rank And File

Columbus Division of Police Central Headquarters.
David Holm
Columbus Division of Police Central Headquarters.

Columbus’ new police chief will be on the job next week, and after a tumultuous year, she’s doing her best to reassure the ranks.

Elaine Bryant is coming to Columbus after a 20-plus year career in Detroit where she rose to the rank of deputy chief. She’ll be the first woman of color to lead the division and the first to reach the post from outside the division. On WOSU's All Sides with Ann Fisher, Bryant sought to allay any fears among her new officers.

“The one thing that I am very, very concerned and want my officers to know, I am going to absolutely be their champion,” Bryant said. “I want to make sure they know that if they are doing the right things for the right reasons I have their back.”

Meanwhile, she also acknowledged the importance of repairing relations with the community at large and earning the trust of Columbus residents.

“It’s important to be able to have those open lines of communication and when we’re wrong you have to admit we’re wrong, this is what we did, and this is what we’re going to do to fix it,” Bryant said.

Bryant takes the helm at a precarious moment. Misconduct during last summer’s protests have led to misdemeanor charges against three officers and the investigation remains open. The city is also negotiating a new contract with the police union, seating a new civilian oversight board and urging federal authorities to investigate the department.

Also, like many police forces around the country, the division has seen sharp uptick in departures over the last year. Bryant hopes her profile can help encourage a more diverse pool of recruits to join the division.

“When people see people that look like them they get excited about it.” she said. “It’s an opportunity to go out and have those conversations an opportunity to use some of our officers to be our sounding board.”

Bryant’s first day is set for next Friday, June 25.

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.