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Columbus Proposes $475,000 Settlement For Black Officer's Lawsuit Against Police

Columbus Police vehicles outside the division headquarters.
David Holm
Columbus Police vehicles outside the division headquarters.

The city of Columbus is introducing legislation to settle a Black police officer’s federal discrimination suit against the Columbus Division of Police. 

Karl Shaw worked for Columbus police for decades, but he alleges his time on the force was tainted by racism and retaliation.

"These people ruined my career, because they could," Shaw told WOSU. 

In the federal discrimination suit Shaw brought against the department, he says he reported racist behavior by white officers and sergeants, but the force failed to take action.

Shaw was involved in an investigation into sergeant Eric Moore, who reportedly called other Black officers monkeys, and threatened to shoot them. Shaw's involvement in that investigation, he said, led to retalliation that made it impossible to access new opportunities within the police force. 

"A Black officer still faces racism within the department, and unfair policies are applied to block their careers. That's clear in this case," Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin says. 

The sergeant, Eric Moore, was fired in 2016 for an unrelated offense, but an arbitrator re-instated him at the urging of the Fraternal Order of Police. He remains a sergeant with the department. 

Shaw filed a discrimination lawsuit against Columbus Police for damages, and the city is introducing legislation to settle that lawsuit for $475,000 and a meeting between Shaw and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther. 

Shaw says he requested a meeting with the Mayor Ginther because he has acknowledged that there are racist officers on the police department, but Shaw questions why more hasn't been done.

"He has their names," Shaw says. "You being the Mayor of this city, you're not doing anything about it." 

But Mayor Ginther says there is progress being made on racism within the department, but it takes time. 

"We will not accept or tolerate racism within the city of Columbus," Mayor Ginther says. "And we will hold people accountable, whether they work in the division of police, they work some place else in city government or out in the community." 

Both Hardin and Ginther hope that voters pass ballot issue 2 to create a civillian review board. Columbus is one of the largest city's in the country that does not have a civilian police review board. Both of them say the board would help hold members of the police force accountable for their actions.

"Accountability requires trust, and for Columbus to have trust in our law enforcement, our police - the real trust that we need - we're going to have to reform the system to improve that type of trust," Hardin says. 

“We support this resolution to a dark and troubling chapter for the Columbus Division of Police," says Public Safety Director Ned Pettus. "As someone who has experienced racism first-hand at different points in my career, I have a deeply painful understanding of its destructive impact, and why there can be absolutely no room for it and no tolerance for it. Racism demeans, devalues and destroys.  That is everything we stand against in our city, and our safety forces.”
In an emailed statement in September, Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan called racism within the department unacceptable.
“It is imperative when an employee or a member of the public has evidence of a racist action that it be immediately reported to Internal Affairs or the Director of Public Safety so it can be properly investigated and if proven, discipline will occur," Quinlan wrote.