Saying he wants to make sure “everyone’s voices are being heard,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther is looking to residents for input about hiring the next chief of the Columbus Division of Police.
“I think this is the most important, or one of the most (important), decision I’m going to make as mayor,” Ginther said. “For the first time ever in our city’s history, we’re going to have the ability to look outside the division.”
Kim Jacobs, the city’s first female and openly gay police chief, retired in February.
Ginther appointed Tom Quinlan, a Columbus deputy chief, as interim chief. The mayor said Quinlan likely will be a candidate for the top job.
In a series of meetings scheduled through the end of June, the mayor and other city officials will ask residents what skills and traits they would like the next chief to possess, Ginther said. He said he expects a chief would be hired in the first quarter of 2020.
Four more of what the city is calling “Chief and Me” community-engagement forums are scheduled this month:
• June 18, 6:30 p.m. at the Reeb Avenue Center, 280 Reeb Ave.
• June 19, 6 p.m. at the Marion-Franklin High School cafeteria, 1265 Koebel Road.
• June 25, 6 p.m. at the Columbus Urban League, 788 Mt. Vernon Ave.
• June 27, 6 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Community House, 1500 E. 17th Ave.
Ginther said representatives of the city would be on the summer-festival circuit and would reach out to area commissions and other neighborhood groups, the faith community and other leaders to help spread the word about the search.
A national search firm likely will be hired this month to assist, Ginther said.
Toward the end of the year, police chief finalists will visit Columbus to discuss their backgrounds and vision for the police division.
“We’ve been pretty good about crime here in Columbus, and I’d like to keep it that way and have a chief of police that’s tough on crime,” said Nick Cipiti, president of the Northwest Civic Association.
The new chief will inherit a police force of 1,900 and a $342 million budget. The chief also will face a continuing opioid and heroin crisis in the city.
Ginther in 2017 announced he was canceling the city’s Community Safety Initiative, a program that targeted high-crime areas. At the time, he said it strained the relationship between the community and police. Even without the safety initiative, the city was successful in reducing the number of homicides after a record-setting 143 in 2017, according to city records.
Ginther said he wants to double the number of women and people of color serving as officers by 2020.
As for what he would like to see from a new chief, Ginther said, “I’m looking for a change agent, a reformer. There are a lot of good things about our police, but I don’t think it has a culture that values diversity and inclusion.”
Dave Paul is chairman of the Northland Community Council development committee and a 17-year resident of the area. He said he would like the next police chief to be neighborhood-oriented.
Paul said he likes the interaction Northland community officials have with their police liaison officers and would like to see that continue.
“I think people in the inner city who have had concerns about excessive use of force and police-related shootings will have louder voices than Northland, and I acknowledge those voices and am not discounting their concerns,” Paul said.
Advisory committee members handling the search for a new police chief include Dawn Tyler Lee, deputy chief of staff for external affairs in the mayor’s office; Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin; Dee Debenport, coordinator of the Merion Village Block Watch; Stephanie Hightower, president of the Columbus Urban League; Jefferey P. Kee, pastor of New Faith Baptist Church of Christ; Kenny Ramos, retired sergeant from the Columbus Division of Police; Siobhan Boyd-Nelson, development director for Equality Ohio; and Brian Williams, pastor of Hope City House of Prayer.
The committee also includes two ex officio members: Columbus City Council member Mitchell Brown and Columbus public-safety director Ned Pettus.