Hilltop commissioners call for police reform

By Josephine Birdsell
Staff Writer

The Greater Hilltop Area Commission wrote a letter to Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, calling for reform of the Columbus Police Department.

This issue was discussed at the Greater Hilltop Area Commission meeting, held virtually on June 2.

The letter follows several days of ‘Black Lives Matter’ solidarity protests in downtown Columbus. The protests began on May 28 following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and have continued daily since.

On May 30, the Columbus Police Department reportedly used mace, tear gas and wooden bullets to disperse protesters at the Ohio Statehouse. City Council President Shannon Hardin and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty were among the protesters maced by officers.
The Greater Hilltop Area Commission condemns the use of force in their letter.

“No protest, especially one that includes the city council president, a county commissioner, and a United States congresswoman, could possibly warrant the indiscriminate tear gassing, mace spraying, or physical attacks that were seen, reported, or recorded that day (Saturday),” the letter reads. “Reports of violent aggression by police on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday were equally disturbing.”

Commissioners also highlighted inequality in the Hilltop.

“The Hilltop is unfairly maligned and struggles disproportionately compared to nearly every other neighborhood, our crime rate is high and our life expectancy low,” the letter reads.

Without community trust in the police, policing in the Hilltop cannot be successful, according to the commissioners.

To build community trust and curb the use of excessive force, the commission advocates for the “wholesale reform of policing,” through the implementation of a number of recommendations made by the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Report Commission and endorsed by members of Columbus City Council. Recommendations include “an internal whistleblower hotline; a morality clause that requires an officer to renounce cultural supremacy groups; non-violent crowd control tactics; de-escalation measures; and establishing an independent civilian review board.”

The commission recommends that further reforms to the Columbus Police Department be spear-headed by racial justice organizations and leaders in Columbus.

“Inaction is not an option, nor are half-measures,” the letter reads. “There is no denying that changes must occur now.”

In other news, Rachel Wenning was appointed the commission’s new vice-chair.

“Rachel has been an exceedingly helpful and useful addition to this commission,” said Scott Stockman, chairman.

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