The Columbus Division of Police experienced a large division both internally and between it and the community during the protests resulting from the death of George Floyd in 2020, according to a report published by Ohio State University.
The report, which included interviews with more than 170 of protest participants and observers, found that the Columbus Police Department was “unprepared for the size and energy of the protests.”
“There was no plan for how to handle this type of protest laid out in advance. Once the protests began, there was a lack of coordination — and even regular communication — among city leaders regarding how to respond,” the report said. “In fact, some community members who participated in this study reported thinking that city leaders were actively at odds over how to respond to the protests.”
The report added that many police struggled to differentiate between peaceful protesters and agitators and that any protest participants suffered both mental and physical trauma as a result of the protests.
“Many community members who participated in this study reported physical and mental trauma as a result of participating in the protests, causing many protestors who had not interacted with the police before to believe the police to be antagonistic,” the report said. “For many Black protestors who participated in this study participation in the protests confirmed their prior experiences of unequal treatment by law enforcement.”
It also detailed how communication between law enforcement and leadership ineffective, saying that it was inconsistent and that the city did not follow protocols laid out in the National Incident Management System. The report recommended several improvements for the department, including increased training, establishing protest-specific units, tabletop exercises and increased preparation for future protests.
Ohio State University’s report comes as Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein call on the Department of Justice to investigate the city’s police department.
@CityAttyKlein and I decided to invite the U.S. Dept. of Justice to review police practices in Columbus. We believe this will help provide an environment that fosters trust between residents and police — and will ultimately lead to a Columbus that is safer for everyone.
— Mayor Andrew Ginther (@MayorGinther) April 29, 2021
“I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as leaders to hold ourselves accountable to the residents of Columbus. This honest, objective assessment of where we have fallen short, as well as what we did correctly, is a tool for us to make real progress,” Klein said in a statement about the report. “I hope the independent research and recommendations can serve as an opportunity for us to continue to make necessary changes to our policing protocols and city responses to bring fairness and safety to all members of our community.”
The Columbus Division of Police could not be reached for comment.
Read the full report here.
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