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Columbus Police Chief Defends New Policy To Release Non-Violent Offenders

Tom Quinlan was demoted in February as Columbus Police chief.
Adora Namigadde
Columbus Division of Police Chief Tom Quinlan

A new policy instituted last week requires Columbus police officers to release non-violent offenders with a court summons instead of putting them in jail.

“They can issue them a summons, and give them a court date just like when you get stopped for a traffic ticket," Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan says. "You are released on summons, you’re told you need to pay it through the mail or appear in court on this date. Same thing happens in this case."

The goal of the policy is two-fold. The department is hoping it will save officers time so they can take more serious community calls, and it will help keep jail populations down during COVID-19.

“COVID is increasing not just in the city of Columbus and Franklin County, but in the halls of the Division of Police, so we have to be more responsible for our resource allocation, to make sure people are there to respond to emergency calls for service,” Quinlan says.

Since the new policy was instituted, Quinlan says he’s gotten feedback from community members, police officers and the police union concerned that the policy takes power away from officers, or gives suspects time to reoffend. Quinlan says those worries are misplaced.

The union did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Others view the policy change as a positive step towards police reform, one that many other major cities have already adopted.