Mayor Ginther responds to criticism over new safety committee
Columbus Mayor, Andrew Ginther, is responding to criticism over his new safety committee.
The "Community Safety Advisory Commission" will review the police department and the group will meet for the first time next week.
ABC6/FOX28 spoke with the mayor to see how this group will benefit the city.
Mayor Ginther has said the purpose of the commission is to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement. But the selection of the current commissioners and the project as a whole has come with a bit of controversy as well.
"Ultimately, community and neighborhood safety is everybody's responsibility. We can't simply ask law enforcement and police to take it on alone," said Ginther.
That community buy-in is a key part of mayor Ginther's Safety Advisory Commission. "It's going to require us to go about doing things differently than we have before to reach that goal," Ginther told ABC6/FOX28,
The group has the huge task of examining the city's police department.
"When you talk about how we recruit, screen, train, continue to educate or policies and procedures. You're looking at everything from use of force and other types of things. This is going to be a significant amount of work," said Ginther.
Part of that process is already underway. Just this week, the department announced on its Facebook page that they're expanding their recruiting unit that focused on increasing diversity.
However, as far as the commission is concerned, some have questioned the selection process of the 17 members. ABC6 went through pages and pages of documents and resumes. The Fraternal Order of Police did a bit of digging as well. In particular, the group is concerned about members with who've spoken out against police strongly in the past and one with a known criminal history.
"It is alarming to know that somebody who can't actually sit in our position will now review how we do our jobs," said FOP president Jason Pappas.
The mayor pointed out to ABC6/FOX28 that the varied backgrounds will help to ensure multiple voices are heard, Ginther added:
We really wanted to make sure that this commission looked a lot like the community and I mean that from background, experience, perspective
There's also the question of residency. ABC6/FOX28 learned that at least three members live outside the city of Columbus.
"I think the overwhelming majority of them do live in the city, or work or serve in the Columbus community. So, I feel very confident that we're going to get great recommendations from folks that are involved in what's going on in the community," Ginther told ABC6/FOX28.
Ginther believes early concerns about the commission simply aren't warranted.
"You know, the way we make our division of police transparent, accountable and responsible is to make sure we have all the policies and procedures in place to make sure we're doing the best job we can serving all people that live in the city," said Ginther.
The mayor also told ABC6/FOX28 that the commission will serve a one-year term. At the end of the year, they'll provide a list of recommendations for improvements for the department.
He went on to say that officers and administrators within the department will also be consulted before any policy changes are put in place. But he stressed that this is the first step to improving community interaction with the police department.