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Columbus, Police Union Reach Tentative Deal On New Contract

Keith Ferrell, president of the union representing Columbus police officers, speaking to the media in January 2021.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins
/
Associated Press
Keith Ferrell, president of the union representing Columbus police officers, speaking to the media in January 2021.

The city of Columbus has reached a tentative deal with the union representing its 1,900 police officers. According to a source with knowledge of the agreement, it includes pay raises and more rules for the city’s new civilian review board for police.

The contract requires approval from the local Fraternal Order of Police union, which will be voting on the deal over the next four days. Union officials said they would not comment until voting is complete.

The Columbus Dispatch was first to report details of the agreement that includes 14% increase between pay and benefits for officers over the life of the three-year contract. It also allows for buyouts of $200,000 each for dozens of officers with more than 25 years of experience on the force.

Regarding the new civilian review board, the deal says the panel will not have subpoena power, although officers could be fired for not cooperating with non-criminal investigations. Neither the board nor the new Office of the Inspector General would be able to participate in criminal investigations.

City Council approved many of the board's other rules last week.

Columbus residents voted overwhelmingly last fall to create the new board to increase oversight of officers in the wake of police's response to last summer's Black Lives Matter protests. Shortly after Mayor Andrew Ginther announced plans to put a measure creating the board on the November ballot, Fraternal Order of Police Capitol City Lodge No. 9 President Keith Farrell criticized the move, saying it was politically motivated.

Since then Ginther and the union have had a dicey relationship. Like many other cities, Columbus has seen a wave of police retirements. A police spokesman told WOSU that older officers have seen the division changing around them and are choosing to leav, when in a different era they may have continued working for a few more years.

Last month Ginther took the historic step of hiring a chief from outside the division's ranks, a right he fought for the last F.O.P. contract. Ginther chose Elaine Bryant, a Black woman who rose to Deputy Chief in the city of Detroit. The previous chief, Tom Quinlan, was demoted by Ginther for what Ginther called a failure to implement many of the reforms promised in the wake of last summer's protests. The demotion came shortly after now-former officer Adam Coy killed Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man shot inside a northwest Columbus garage.

The deal also calls for mandatory drug and alcohol testing for officers involved in shootings.

This is a developing story that will be updated.