Opinion: With police division's power being limited, how are they to protect and serve?

Asia's Tech News Daily

Are the Columbus police in crisis?

If so, how did we arrive at this point? It began in 2017, when an officer was fired for pressing his foot onto the arm of a handcuffed felon. Mayor Ginther publicly stated the officer should be fired, though the investigation had hardly begun.

The firing was legal, but was it fair? Statements of the mayor led to a sharp decline in self-initiated field activity. Mantra among street officers became, “Stay clean by doing nothing,” or “The job I save may be my own.” Who suffers?

Retired Columbus police Sgt. Stephen Walter is a lifetime resident of Columbus and Grove City. He is also a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve retiree.

Homicide cases exploded to 143 for that year. In 2020 we had 175 homicide cases (an all-time record). As of Nov. 8, 2021, the number is 175, with seven weeks left in the calendar year.

More: Fatal shooting at Target near Easton ties Columbus homicide record

Over 300 officers retired or resigned over the last three years. With fewer officers available, response times lengthened.

More: Columbus police officers leaving department at higher rate as buyout looms

Mayor Ginther was interviewed recently about future hiring. The first word he mentioned was diversity. I would’ve mentioned a strong desire to serve the public, integrity, compassion…

Protests downtown in 2020 heightened the situation. Many arrests were made, many charges being dropped, “In the interest of justice.” Is that the case, or was it ideology? No valid reasons were given.

A federal judge issued an injunction against use of pepper spray on peaceful protestors. The injunction was not appealed by the city and may be unconstitutional, but ideologically congruent to neuter CPD enforcement efforts. Should protests occur, officers will have no way of protecting life and property.

More: Federal injunction prevents Columbus police from using tear gas, wooden bullets

How about using riot batons? No, they’ve all been destroyed. How about physical strength of officers against physical strength of protesters? Yes, if you wish many officers and citizens to suffer injury.

Recently, an abitrator ruled the City had violated its contract with the Fraternal Order of Police by having outside entities conduct investigations of conduct of officers during the protests of 2020. The city immediately filed an appeal.

More: Arbitrator says city can't hire outsiders to investigate Columbus police misconduct

It appears this administration will go to great lengths to limit its Division of Police. Who suffers? Citizens in distressed areas!

Examples of the effectiveness of street level policing was Operation Unity #1 and #2. With backing of City Hall, felons were arrested, drugs and firearms seized, as was over $50,000 in cash.

Could we have support of City Hall on the other 363 days of the year?

Hope may lie in the Group Violence Intervention unit — details of which are in development. Concepts from noted criminologist David Kennedy, which focus on police efforts and community involvement on persons at greatest risk to be suspects or victims, show much promise.

Here’s hoping for a better future! The recent past is too painful.

Retired Columbus police Sgt. Stephen Walter is a lifetime resident of Columbus and Grove City. He is also a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve retiree.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Opinion: Limiting power prevents police ability to protect and serve

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