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Faith Leaders Urge Federal Review Of Columbus Police To Go Further

Columbus Police cruiser vehicle
Adora Namigadde

A week after Columbus city officials announced a federal review of the Columbus police department, local faith leaders are urging the feds to go further.

The current agreement between the city and the Department of Justice includes a review by an office focused on community policing. Some faith leaders like Reverend Tim Ahrens of the First Congregational Church argue a review doesn’t go far enough.

“There are patterns of systemic racism within the department which leads to practices of excessive force, biased policing and unconstitutional practices by the Columbus police,” Ahrens said.

He and others are seeking what’s often known as a patterns and practices investigation which would examine potential civil rights violations.

Columbus Attorney Sean Walton said the city needs more than just the recommendations on best practices.

“This city needs the assistance of the federal government and the oversight of a court order to ensure that the decades of constitutional violations against the citizens of this city finally come to an end,” Walton said.

Reverend Jeffrey Kee of the New Faith Baptist Church of Christ said a review might be good in theory, but he’s skeptical about how the city will put the recommendations into practice.

“No oversight means no change. No change means no accountability. And no accountability means no deal for our city,” Kee said.

Shortly after a Columbus police officer shot and killed 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant on April 20, city officials called on federal officials to launch a probe of racial bias in the division.

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.