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Columbus Police Vice Unit Removes Third Officer, Resumes Some Operations

Esther Honig

Columbus Police's Vice Unit will resume limited operations, the department announced Friday, one day after relieving a third Vice officer of duty.

Officer Whitney Lancaster was relieved of duty Thursday, according to spokesperson Denise Alex-Bouzounis. That means Lancaster's gun and badge were taken from him, and he has been reassigned to desk duty.

Lancaster has worked for the police department for 31 years, according personnel records. Lancaster was involved in the July arrest of porn star Stormy Daniels.

The department opened an investigation on the Vice Unit in September, freezing most of the unit’s operations. Later that month, Chief Kim Jacobs handed the investigation over to the FBI.

In total, three Vice officers have been relieved of duty as a result of the probe.

Andrew Mitchell and Steve Rosser were relieved of duty in September and November, respectively. Mitchell fatally shot Donna Castleberry in August while arresting her on prostitution charges. Rosser led the sting that resulted in the arrest of Daniels and two other women at the Sirens strip club. The two women are suing the Vice officers over their arrest.

Police announced Friday that a select team of Vice officers will tackle nuisance abatement and liquor violations, in conjunction with the City Attorney’s office, effective immediately. The unit will not be doing stings or undercover operations, and the unit's anti-human-trafficking efforts will remain on hiatus.

Police did not comment on how many Vice officers will return to work.

Alex-Bouzounis said in a statement that the FBI is still investigating the policies, procedures and training of the Vice Unit.