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Columbus City Council votes to remove police civilian review board member

Gambit Aragon civilian police review board.jpg
Columbus Civilian Police Review Board member Gambit Aragon speaks at a special meeting on Dec. 19, 2022, in which board members voted to recommend his removal.

Original story updated March 7 at 5:40 a.m.

A member of the Columbus Civilian Police Review Board has been removed from the panel for anti-police social media posts in the wake of a canceled holiday drag queen reading event in December that drew protests from groups that included the Proud Boys.

City council voted Monday night on the removal of review board member Gambit Aragon. Aragon called Columbus Police "oppressors"—and more—for their handling of the story time event and related protests.

In the wake of the incident, Kyle Strickland was the only civilian review board member who voted against recommending Aragon's removal. "We didn't officially have a social media policy in place. We didn't have a set of policies of what necessarily constitutes neglect of duty. So I was uncomfortable with recommending removal without really ironing out what our process would be," Strickland said.

Strickland said the board has since taken steps to finalize its policies governing members' conduct online.

While declining to address the particular charges against Aragon, Strickland said board members must be able to set aside personal views while still bringing their unique perspectives to the board.

"You're going to have a variety of perspectives and opinions. There are decisions and opinions that you may not agree with...but that's the point, right? We're supposed to be able to have those perspectives that are diverse, that are reflective of the community and ultimately come up with a set of decisions," Strickland said.

Before the Monday night vote, a city council spokeswoman said in a statement that the vote to remove Aragon was strictly procedural.

"The board recommended the individual be removed from the Civilian Review Board. The Mayor asked the individual to resign and he did not. The individual did not appeal. So tonight’s vote will happen in line with the process," the statement said.

Matthew Rand is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher.