The police chief of Columbus, Ohio, is stepping down amid multiple controversies — including the recent fatal shootings of two Black men in the city by deputies and officers — that has drawn national attention in his brief one-year tenure.
Columbus Police Division Chief Thomas Quinlan will move into the role of deputy chief for the department as the city conducts a national search for his replacement, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced Thursday.
“It became clear to me that Chief Quinlan could not successfully implement the reform and change I expect and that the community demands,” Ginther said. “Columbus residents have lost faith in him and in Division’s ability to change on its own. Chief Quinlan understood.”
Ginther added in his announcement that he would soon appoint members of the city's first Civilian Review Board, that will bring oversight to the city's police, after it was approved by voters in November.
Quinlan officially took the helm of the department on a one-year contract in December 2019, with the option for an extension, according to NBC affiliate WCMH. He served as the department’s interim chief for the majority of 2019 after former chief Kim Jacobs retired.
In a statement to WCMH, Quinlan said that while he hoped to continue in his role, he respected the decision and was proud of his work as chief.
“Someone else will now carry those priorities forward, and I will help and support them in any way I can,” Quinlan said. “In my three decades of service to Columbus, my commitment has never been to any title or position. It has been to this Division and this community I love. That will not change.”
The news comes following the death of Andre Hill, a 47-year-old Black man fatally shot by Columbus police just days before Christmas. Hill was a guest at the home where he was shot and had not committed a crime.
Both officers who interacted with Hill failed to activate their body-worn cameras until immediately after the shooting, a violation of department protocol. Body camera footage from after the shooting showed that officers did not provide aid to Hill for several minutes after he was shot.
Quinlan was also the subject of an online petition calling for his resignation last year following the department’s handling of protesters who demonstrated against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd. More than 14,000 people signed the petition, which said that Quinlan directed officers to use tear gas and mace on protesters.
A group of protesters filed a lawsuit against the city in the Southern District Court of Ohio in July, alleging police violated their First Amendment right to protest and injured them in the city’s effort to disperse demonstrations, according to the lawsuit.
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The city has also been rocked by another fatal shooting of a Black man, 23-year-old Casey Goodson, that was being investigated by Columbus police. Goodson was shot as he was walking into his grandmother’s home in December by a Franklin County sheriff's deputy.
A deputy working with a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force “reported witnessing a man with a gun” and fired at Goodson after a “verbal exchange,” Columbus police said at the time.
Goodson was licensed to carry a concealed firearm and was not the person being sought by authorities, police said. A preliminary autopsy showed that Goodson was killed after multiple gunshot wounds to the torso.