REYNOLDSBURG, OH — The local FOP Capital City Lodge No. 9, which represents Reynoldsburg police among more than 4,000 law enforcement officers at agencies throughout Franklin County, met with Reynoldsburg city officials and worked out the details in an amicable discussion, according to the union.
The City of Reynoldsburg and the union representing its police officers have agreed in principle to draft legislation that would create a civilian police review board that could be approved as early as September.
The draft language of the city’s ordinance was provided to the Reynoldsburg City Council at a meeting Monday, July 27. The ordinance is expected to be given a first reading in September and is subject to change prior to that reading.
The local FOP Capital City Lodge No. 9, which represents Reynoldsburg police among more than 4,000 law enforcement officers at agencies throughout Franklin County, met with Reynoldsburg city officials and worked out the details in an amicable discussion, according to the union.
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther has said publicly the same FOP Local 9 union is resistant to a civilian review board in that city. Ginther has made public comments saying the union needs to be with the citizens of Columbus and would be against them if they refuse to accept establishment of a civilian review board.
The FOP has responded that they cannot determine if they will support the review board without seeing the specifics on how it would function, and Ginther has not offered the union a proposal to consider.
Under the draft language in the proposed Reynoldsburg ordinance, the review board there would consist of nine members who will be unpaid and serve two-year terms. Four members would be chosen by ward council members to represent their respective areas of the city. The remaining five members would be nominated by the mayor.
Those five members must include an active attorney, someone with a human resources background, a person with law enforcement experience or background who is not a Reynoldsburg officer, and two minority race or ethnicity representatives.
Board members would be required to complete the Reynoldsburg Civilian Police Academy program — which is in the process of being created — within six months of their appointment. The members would also have to do a “ride-along”with an officer for at least four hours to gain “experience and insight into the unique job functions” of police.
The board would meet publicly at least once a month to hold hearings on complaints, which would be heard by the board following an internal investigation by the police department.
The board would focus on complaints of discriminatory behavior by Reynoldsburg police, City Attorney Chris Shook told the council.
Shook told council members the draft language had originally included giving the board the ability to investigate complaints about use of force, but in consultation with other community law directors and the police union, the scope was narrowed to stay more consistent with the contract between Reynoldsburg and the police union.
According to the process outlined in the proposed city ordinance, complaints would first need to be filed with the police department and investigated by their internal affairs unit. If the person filing the complaint is not satisfied with the outcome of that investigation, they can then file a complaint with the board for further review.
The legislation requires police to provide the board with a copy of “all investigatory materials” at least two weeks before any hearing, including body camera footage, interviews, statements and police policies and findings. The board could also seek additional information, including through a subpoena, if necessary.
The board would hold a hearing where it would be able to ask follow-up questions. The complainant, with or without an attorney, would also have the ability to present witnesses and evidence at the hearing.
While meetings would not be required to be recorded or broadcast, the legislation would require the hearing to be recorded or transcribed “for the accurate collection of truthful testimony.”
Members of the board would discuss the incident and the evidence in executive session, then have a public vote based on a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, meaning more evidence supports one conclusion.
The board can decide complaints through one of six outcomes: sustained, sustained in part, sustained for a violation not based on original complaint, exonerated, unfounded and insufficient evidence. A majority vote of the board is required to determine the outcome, according to the draft legislation.
The review board will not make a recommendation about possible discipline if the allegation is sustained, the proposed legislation states. A final summary will be prepared detailing why the board chose the outcome it did and why it may differ from what the police department found. Those summary reports could include dissenting opinions and will include information about whether the matter is being referred to the police chief or mayor.
Jeff Simpson, Executive Vice President of Capital City Lodge No. 9, said the union met with Reynoldsburg officials and had a discussion about the proposal to have any questions from either side answered.
“It does help when you have a proposal to talk about,” Simpson said. “There was full transparency on our end and full transparency on their end.”
He said the union’s main concern was that the collective bargaining agreement that is in place was followed.
“The bottom line is as long as the contract is being followed, they can implement what they want,” Simpson said. “We’ll educate our members about it because there is anxiety surrounding these things, but they’ve been transparent about what the process will be and that’s all we can ask for.”
Shook said during the meeting that the legislation was not created in response to any particular allegation or incident, but was rather a proactive approach to increase transparency.
Councilwoman Meredith Lawson-Rowe said during the meeting she was pleased the city was being proactive in getting a civilian review board in place.
“This allows everyone to be protected and to be heard,” she said.