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Columbus Police Abolishes Vice Unit


Columbus Division of Police has abolished its Vice Unit, effective immediately.

In a video posted to social media late Tuesday, Interim Police Chief Tom Quinlan announced that he reassigned or removed all remaining officers of the Vice Unit, which is currently under investigation by the FBI.

"Today I removed three officers from their Vice assignments and notified the seven remaining officers that I am abolishing their assignments," Quinlan said.

Columbus Police say that Quinlan met with the remaining Vice officers to offer them opportunities to apply for new positions. Multiple officers and supervisors within the Vice Unit already voluntarily transferred to other assignments within the department.

The move comes just one week after Justice Department officials announced the indictment of a Vice officer on seven federal charges. Authorities accused Columbus officer Andrew Mitchell with kidnapping multiple victims under the pretense of an arrest, and forcing them to have sex in exchange for their freedom. Mitchell has since filed for retirement.

Columbus Police froze most Vice operations in September, prompted by two central incidents: The fatal shooting of Donna Castleberry and the arrest of porn star Stormy Daniels. In addition to the ongoing FBI investigation, Columbus Police is currently conducting an internal review of the Vice Unit. 

Three Vice officers—Mitchell, Whitney Lancaster and Steve Rosser—have been so far relieved of duty as a result of the investigation. The three officers removed Quinlan on Monday have yet not been named.

"While today's decision is not a reflection on all the officers assigned to Vice, it has become clear there is a better way of addressing the community's needs when it comes to the enforcement of prostitution, alcohol and gambling," Quinlan said Monday.

While some Vice operations picked back up in December, undercover work and stings did not resume. It's not immediately clear what will happen to the unit's remaining duties.

In the video, Quinlan says he will meet with department officials to develop a new model for enforcement. Columbus Police said in a tweet that "Vice-related crimes will be addressed using a community-centered approach."

This article will be updated as the story develops.

If you have information to share about the Vice Unit, contact WOSU at adora@wosu.org.