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

Columbus to implement police reform measures brought on by George Floyd protests

Columbus Police bike officers at a protest in downtown Columbus in 2018.

Columbus City Council is expected to approve two police reform measures Monday that are motivated by the court injunctions filed against the city in the aftermath of the protests following the murder of George Floyd.

The reforms involve police identification and the use of military-type equipment during peaceful protests.

“What this legislation really does is begin to codify that injunction that was issued by the federal court, both for your police ID and for the demilitarization bill,” said Columbus City Councilman Rob Dorans.

Police officers patrolling the 2020 protests lacked identification on their riot gear, creating problems in identifying officers involved in different incidents, Dorans said.

Read: Two civil rights lawsuits relating to 2020 protests filed against Columbus police, city

“Coming out of protests in 2020, there were challenges in some of the subsequent investigations of officer actions of identifying officers. That was because of the lack of identification, specifically then on riot gear, to determine who was on the street and who was committing certain actions,” he said.

A few days into the protests, officers were asked to add their names or badge numbers to a piece of duct tape to make identification easier.

“At the end of the day, we shouldn't be relying upon duct tape, as our fix for making sure that officers are clearly identified. This legislation addresses that issue to make sure that officers -- no matter what type of uniform that they're wearing, clearly have their name and badge number on there,” Dorans said.

Dorans said the measure will add transparency to the public and also protect police officers from being falsely accused of doing something that another officer was responsible for.

“I do think this is an important piece of reform that I think feeds into what we would like to see -- more trust between the community and offers officers themselves,” Dorans said. “I don't think anyone wants to be accused of misconduct and certainly the misconduct of someone else.”

The other change will restrict the use of military-type equipment when demonstrators are being peaceful.

“Federal courts issued an injunction against the city about using certain types of equipment against peaceful protesters as a result of the 2020 lawsuits that followed the protests,” Dorans said.

Read: Columbus City Council extends contract for prosecutor overseeing alleged police abuse cases during George Floyd protests

Dorans said the legislation will codify new rules in line with the court injunction to protect the First Amendment rights of peaceful protestors, so the rules aren’t dependent on who is in charge.

“What we want to do here is really enshrine these things in city code, because we want to make sure that no matter who's sitting on council, no matter who's sitting in the mayor's chair, no matter who is the police chief, that these things are addressed once and for all,” Dorans said. “The events of 2020 show that having good policy on the books is helpful to make sure that when and if there is a future issue that comes up, that our policies match what our responsibilities are to the public.”

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.