COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. Department of Justice finished its review of the Columbus Division of Police, but city leaders are already asking the agency to dig deeper into the department's use of force.
In April 2021, Mayor Andrew Ginther sent a letter requesting the DOJ help identify possible racial biases within Columbus policing efforts, while also offering solutions to reform.
The mayor also asked the DOJ to evaluate current reform efforts and pinpoint any possible deficiencies and racial disparities within the division.
The DOJ's report did not address the use of force and city leaders want it to take a closer look.
"It means holding ourselves accountable to the highest level and highest standards," said Robert Clark, the director of public safety for the city.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant explained many of the changes the DOJ suggested, like restructuring the division and a bigger focus on community policing, were already in the works before the city got the final report.
When asked if the agency had any specific concerns for Columbus police, Bryant said, "The report indicated that there were certain areas they felt we could strengthen. A lot of the things they pointed out we were already working towards."
While the DOJ had access to personnel, and policies and could review what they thought was necessary, they did not focus on the use of force.
Ginther said he already sent a letter to the DOJ for another phase of the review to look at the division's use of force.
"We have to able to balance officer safety, constitutional rights and public safety. Every department in the United States should be looking at use of force and how they can improve it," Ginther said.
There is no timeline for when the DOJ will begin its review.
Attorney Sean Walton said there needs to be an investigation into the history of the use of force and not just a review.
"If they do not attack this head-on and be honest about what they're asking the DOJ to do, then we're going to wait two more years for another report that was just like the report from the past 10 years," Walton said. "People are dying in the process."
Bryant did announce several steps the department is taking because of the DOJ's investigation, including hiring a third assistant chief, proposing changes to increase the number of patrol zones and creating a group to improve hiring and retention.