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Justice Department agrees to review Columbus, Ohio, police after fatal shootings

Elaine Bryant, the chief of police, said the DOJ's involvement would provide the department an opportunity "to grow, build and improve."

The Department of Justice has agreed to review the practices of the Columbus, Ohio, police department, the city's mayor announced.

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and City Attorney Zach Klein in April requested a review of the Columbus Division of Police. The request was made in the wake of several shootings by police officers in the city, including the deaths of Andre Hill in December and Ma’Khia Bryant in April.

"This is the first time in our city's history that the DOJ has been invited to review CPD, and for the first time that they've come in under the community-oriented policing services arm," Ginther said at a news conference Thursday.

The city's police officers have been involved in a number of high-profile shootings. In December, Hill was fatally shot by now-former Officer Adam Coy as Hill walked out of the garage of a home. Coy and a second officer did not turn their body cameras on until immediately after the shooting, although an automatic "look back" function captured the shooting without audio.

Coy was indicted on several charges and has pleaded not guilty.

Just months later, Bryant, 16, was fatally shot by Columbus police Officer Nick Reardon as he responded to a report of a disturbance. Police have said video of the shooting shows Bryant trying to stab a person on the ground, as well as a second person, before Reardon fired his weapon. The case is being reviewed by the local prosecutor.

The mayor said the DOJ's involvement is "not about one particular officer, policy or incident."

"Rather, this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus," he said. "We look forward to the DOJ's involvement in that continued process."

Elaine Bryant, the chief of police, praised the news saying that it would provide the department an opportunity "to grow, build and improve."

“This decision by the Department of Justice means we would have a partner with deep resources and expertise to help us achieve this. This opens the door for collaboration with experts from across the country," she said.

"We can benefit from their experience and knowledge to help us improve our policies and the way that we serve this city. They will help us become even stronger, a more efficient organization.”

The chief said research and findings show the department needs to improve on several areas, including use of force, training, diversity, bias-based policing and de-escalation. The Justice Department's review, however, will not be limited to just those areas, she said.

At a news conference in June when Bryant was named police chief, she said one of the main reasons she took the job was to help "service the community and this division," but that goal cannot be reached without some help.

“This is not something we can do alone," she said. "We have to be open to the possibility that we don’t have all the answers."