Community justice groups react to safety plan initiative being axed by mayor

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Mayor Andrew Ginther announced Thursday that the controversial Safety Initiative is coming to an end and he unveiled new strategies to keep our neighborhoods safe.

Organizations like the People’s Justice Project look at the mayor’s call to end the safety initiative as a win and a step in the right direction to better relationships with the minority community and police.

“We’re talking about the lives of our children. So we will stay in this fight,” said Tammy Fournier-Alsaada, with the People’s Justice Project.

Fournier Alsaada says tears of joy formed in her eyes after Ginther announced putting an end to the controversial safety initiative, which included putting plainclothes officers in high crime areas.

In the summer of 2016, 23-year-old Henry Green was fatally shot by two plainclothes Columbus police officers who were working as part of the program. It was later expanded to run year-round.

“We can only tackle these safety challenges through new approaches to policing,” said Mayor Ginther.

In the initiative’s place, Ginther is calling for a $2 million Neighborhood Safety Strategies Fund. This fund would pay overtime to cover increased bike and foot patrol by uniformed officers.

“Yes we want police in our community, police are responsible for the safety and well-being of the community, but if we are going to change the culture and get to solving some of these crimes and addressing violence it will take a bunch of players at the table,” said Fournier-Alsaada.

Since the deaths of Henry Green and 13-year-old Tyre King, the People’s Justice Project has asked city leaders to take a look at the way policing is handled in minority communities.

“The police really have to at some point understand what we are saying. This is a really different issue, we are talking about the death and the loss of people that we love,” said Fournier-Alsaada.

Columbus has paid more than $4 million to individuals who alleged civil rights violations over the past decade.

Key initiatives announced by Mayor Ginther:

  • Expanding the city’s successful Safe Streets bike patrol to additional opportunity neighborhoods, including expanding foot patrol.
  • Hiring a program manager and four caseworkers for the Community, Action, Resilience and Empowerment (CARE) Coalition to address the ripple effect violent crime has on a neighborhood.
  • Expanding the city’s efforts to solve gang and drug related homicides by directing more officers to investigate unsolved crimes.
  • Filling two new police recruits classes, each with 35 recruits.
  • More than $500,000 in new initiatives to combat opiate addiction in support of the Franklin County Opiate Action Plan.
  • Forming the Violent Crime Review Group to address the city’s unacceptable homicide rate through a focused, multi-departmental review of and response to violent crimes.
  • Establishing a new cross-departmental Neighborhood Crisis Response to strengthen neighborhoods by coordinating city resources to create physical deterrents to crime.
  • Establishing Neighborhood Safety Committees led by the local Community Liaison Officers and made up of block watch volunteers and community leaders to review information from the Violent Crimes Review Group and give real-time feedback on Columbus neighborhood intervention strategies.
  • Creating a Community Safety Advisory Committee to ensure Columbus has the best training, policies and procedures to protect and serve the entire community, as well as seeking an objective, independent consultant to support this work.

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