COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Columbus officials will evaluate the effectiveness of a summer police initiative as part of discussions between the city council’s president and demonstrators who have protested two fatal shootings by police in Ohio’s capital city, leaders on each side said Monday.
The announcement comes a week after dozens of protesters packed city council chambers and shouted down Columbus City Council president Zach Klein, bringing the council’s meeting to a halt.
Klein and his fellow council members joined activists Monday afternoon on the steps of City Hall to discuss their talks. He said he’s convinced the police initiative needs to be reevaluated and he’s committed to working with his city council colleagues, the mayor and other leaders to ensure it’s a program that makes the community safer.
“But we can only make the right improvements if we work together,” Klein told demonstrators.
Organizers say the review of the police initiative is a starting point. They also want more money to be spent on violence prevention and intervention programs in the city’s upcoming budget. And they plan to sit down with city officials and community members every other week to continue to discuss such issues.
Molly Shack, lead organizer with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, said the summer police initiative has been a bad strategy for the city.
“The summer safety initiative is a prime example of how neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by lack of investment, lack of opportunity, lack of employment, lack of quality education — they get double-downed on policing rather than double-downed on investing,” Shack said ahead of the rally.
Demonstrators continue to call for independent investigations into the deaths of 13-year-old Tyre King and 23-year-old Henry Green.
On Monday, dozens of protesters marched several blocks from City Hall to the office of Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien. Walking along the downtown streets, they chanted “Black lives matter” and “Whose streets? Our streets.” They urged changes to the way police shootings are investigated, and for O’Brien to meet with family members of both people who were shot and killed.
Tyre was shot Sept. 14 after he ran from an officer investigating a reported armed robbery and pulled a BB gun that looked like a real firearm, police say.
Green was shot June 6 after he ignored the commands of two plainclothes officers to drop his gun and fired on them, police say.
Authorities have said the police investigations into both shootings will be presented to a grand jury to decide whether charges against the officers are warranted.
Demonstrators say they don’t trust the police to investigate themselves. Both Tyre and Green’s families also have called for independent investigations.
Witnesses have contradicted information from police in both cases, attorney Sean Walton, who is representing both families, has said.
The deaths have heightened tensions over the safety of black people in Ohio’s largest city and added to a list of killings of black males by police across the country.