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Columbus City Council Puts Civilian Oversight Board On Fall Ballot

Protesters on the sidewalk of the Ohio Statehouse face Columbus Police officers, who stood in the middle of High Street, on June 1, 2020.
Paige Pfleger

Two months after massive protests took over downtown Columbus, City Council has signed off on asking voters if they want independent police oversight.

Council voted Monday to have voters decide whether to create a new Civilian Review Board to investigate complaints about police. The council also approved ordinances that limit the use of no-knock warrants, reduce the use of military-grade equipment and institute hate group background checks for police.

The proposals came on the heels of weeks of protests over racial inequities in policing, following the Minneapolis Police killing of George Floyd.

Columbus Police's response to the protests, including the use of pepper spray and tear gas, also prompted widespread criticism. Chief Tom Quinlan said "mistakes were made" but has mostly defended officers' actions.

Columbus is one of the largest cities in the country that does not already have a Civilian Review Board. The board would provide independent oversight of the Columbus Division of Police, as well as appoint an inspector general, who would head independent investigations into allegations of police misconduct.

Last week, city leaders also announced a $250,000 independent review of the police department and city's response to recent protests in Columbus. The review will take a macro-level look at the way the city and police department responded to thousands of residents taking the streets over the last few months.

Investigations into individual protesters' reports about police brutality are being performed by the City Attorney's Office.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that all the issues approved by council Monday would go on the November ballot. Only the Civilian Review Board proposal will go before voters.