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At Faith Forum, Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant Hears Traumatic Stories of Community Members’ Interactions with Police


Tuesday, May 31, 2022


Dan Clark, dclark@faithinpubliclife.org

Kia Smith, ksmith@faithinpubliclife.org

At Faith Forum, Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant Hears Traumatic Stories of Community Members’ Interactions with Police  

Columbus, Ohio–On Tuesday, May 31, Faith in Public Life in partnership with Say It Loud Columbus, Columbus Safety Collective, Bishop Donald Washington and Mt. Hermon Missionary Baptist Church, hosted a faith forum and facilitated a conversation between Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant and over 100 members of the community, including those who have been directly harmed by Columbus police. 

For video of the event, click here.

Chief Elaine Bryant

“We are committed to interacting with every single community in Columbus and working with them to find solutions.

We want to diversify the department. We’re encouraging minorities and different genders to join our department and be part of the solution.

I guarantee you there will be no cover ups when an officer does something wrong.

We agree that there are situations where a police response might not be the right response.

We’re putting people in place that are going to be the change agents for what you’re looking for. Behavior and tone starts at the top. We know and understand we have to be present. We’re out in the community to make sure we can see firsthand for ourselves the concerns and issues.

Any changes that need to be made, we’re not running from any of them.”

Assistant Chief Lashanna Potts

“We can’t be the answer to all the issues that surround racism. Policing as a culture needs to change and we’re a part of that. We’re not blind to the fact that there is racism in law enforcement. But we are not going to tolerate lawlessness. We’re not going to tolerate the mistreatment of our citizens. But we’re also not going to tolerate the mistreatment of our officers.”

“We are two Black women. Black first, female second. We came in with our eyes open. We have work to do. Everyone needs to hold each other accountable and work together to be the culture we want to see.”

“We’ve made it clear to the officers that we’re going to make it uncomfortable for you if you have biases of any kind. If they’re racist, if they’re homophobic, they’re going to have to find someplace else to work.”

David Harewood, Columbus Police Accountability Project – “What will be your response the next time a Columbus cop shoots a child in the back?”

Chana Wiley, Sister of Jaron Thomas – “I am the sister of Jaron Thomas, my brother was having a mental health crisis and called the police for help, and they beat him to death. The department sends out officers who are not suited to mental health calls for help. If we had a non-police response process in place, Jaron would still be alive.”

Esther Flores, Executive Director of 1 Divine Line 2 Health – “You’re aware of the Andrew Mitchell situation. And guess what, there are still cops on the West side exchanging sex for freedom.”

Esther Flores, Executive Director of 1 Divine Line 2 Health – “The police department doesn’t need any more funding. The people need funding.”

Stephan Douglas – “What can you do to help rebuild the race relations in our city?”

Rev. Derrick Holmes, The AMOS Project – “Over 18 months, hundreds of people have shared with us in African American churches that they have experienced being over policed for nonviolent crimes. We need strategies that work and not just bandaids.”

Nakea Hughes – “Last Saturday my son was shot at a gas station by a panhandler. I met him at OSU East. Two big police officers came towards me and they made us stand up in the waiting room. They made us stand up in the waiting room. They frisked us right there in the waiting room. I was wearing a dress. Their hands were all over me. Then I was outside and one of them grabbed my wrist and broke off all of the five bracelets I was wearing. Sargent Stallings saw it happen and told him to get off of me.”

Colleen Dempsey, National Association of Social Workers – “I care deeply about investing in a public safety solution that includes a non police crisis response. But public safety social work positions are totally under the thumb of the police.”

Jamita Malone, Mother of Julius Tate – “This city has caused me so much grief. Columbus police has an addiction to being racist and it starts right inside the headquarters.”

Maryam Muhammed, Sister of Julius Tate – “I am the sister of Julius Tate, murdered in December 2018 by a Columbus police officer. They told us he was shot 5 times. The autopsy showed he was shot 11 times.”

Molly Shea – “If these speakers have shown me anything it is that my whiteness and my class privilege are the reasons I have not interacted with your officers. You inherited dirty cops. You inherited a dirty union. Now the question is, what are you going to do about it? Change takes time. But advocacy does not. Please start advocating to reduce your budget.”

Pam Gatewood – “I’ve seen officers arrest human trafficking victims without a woman present. That is breaking rule number one. I don’t know what the training is for, but it’s not working.”

Molly Cruz, 1 Divine Line 2 Health – “I am a survivor of human trafficking. I was arrested by Andrew Mitchell 5 times in a 3 year period. Now I volunteer with 1 Divine Line 2 Health on the West side. That VICE Squad is famously debunked for a reason, but I see no changes.”

Joe Motil – “We can’t wait for policy changes. We need them now. Or are you going to wait for the FOP to do it? Because if you wait for them, it isn’t going to happen.” 

Hana Ortiz-Sanchez – “I’m a community organizer and I’ve been surveilled by your Columbus police department since 2017. You need to understand the history. Black people are still being murdered under your leadership. When are you going to give us something tangible that we can act on?”


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