In Columbus, Ohio, where 16-year-old Macia Bryant died in a police shooting this week, mistrust in the police department deepens. Protesters chant a long list of blacks killed by the officers. For many, “police protection” is something of a paradox. The police themselves are a danger. This has led to a major reform campaign that activists want to speed up.
Hours after Bryant was killed, protests erupted in the area, with neighbors like Ira Graham III saying her death was yet another clue to something they had believed in years. It is not safe to call the police.
“I have an 18-year-old guy who happens to be in college now and I tell him, unfortunately, he never called the police for anything, because you call the police and unfortunately things can end like this,” Graham said in the neighborhood. Proof.
These feelings aren’t unique to Columbus, but they are common here, even for people like Diguan Sharp, a 37-year-old US Army veteran.
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“I shouldn’t be afraid of the police,” says Sharp. “I shouldn’t live in fear when these people stop. I should be able to call 911 if my family needs it.”
Blacks in Columbus have good reason to be afraid, according to activist Jasmine Iris.
“We have one of the most violent police stations in the United States,” Ayres says.
This is especially true for African Americans. According to the group Mapping Police ViolenceColumbus police are responsible for more black deaths in the past several years, then departments in major cities like Los Angeles or Philadelphia, and much more than those in Similar neighboring cities Like Cleveland and Cincinnati.
And the problems go back. In 1998 the US Department of Justice Investigate with Columbus Police They found a range of violations, a pattern of excessive force, false arrests, and false charges.
Columbus City Council President Shannon Harden said the unrest last summer after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis led to a new and powerful campaign to rein in the administration.
“There has really been a lot of change and a lot of reform,” says Hardin. “We’ve done more in the last year in terms of police policy than we’ve done in 30 years, combined.”
Hardin says the city has banned non-strike orders, with police entering without warning. Established a registry to screen officers who participate in hate groups. Hardin is especially proud of a new police unit, which are teams of people with psychological training to respond to and mitigate sensitive situations.
Harden also points to a ballot initiative to create a civilian review board that would provide oversight and accountability, with summoning authority.
Columbus voters approved it with nearly 75% of the vote. The city is taking a big step towards creating this board on Monday when the first board members list will be finalized.
But Iris says the bolder move is in order.
“We want the Justice Department to investigate the Columbus Police Department,” Ayres says. “Obviously, after a decade of disproportionate killing of blacks and browns, they won’t be able to fix it.”
And since the group of activists calling for a Department of Justice investigation doesn’t necessarily carry that much weight, Iris wants the city to formally call for federal oversight.
“The Department of Justice just went to Minneapolis. They can come to Columbus and we need.” [the city] To make that phone call, “Iris says.
This kind of phone can be tough for a politician to make, even if he’s a reformer like Hardin. The council president did not state his position on the Justice Department investigation, although he said he welcomed stricter federal guidelines on local police administration policies and transparency.