Three Columbus, Ohio cops have been hit with criminal charges over what The Hill described as “allegations of using improper force against protesters” who took to the streets in the weeks after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
According to The Hill, special prosecutor Kathleen Gerber and independent investigator Rick Wozniak filed charges this week against Columbus Officers Traci Shaw and Phillip Wallis for alleged “assault, dereliction of duty, and interfering with protesters’ civil rights.”
Sgt. Holly Kanode is also facing dereliction of duty charges, as well as at least one count of “falsifying information about a protester’s actions toward another officer,” The Hill said.
As the criminal investigation plays out, the Columbus Division of Police has said the three officers are currently on “administrative” duty.
“The officers have been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the criminal investigation,” the department said in a statement, according to The Hill.
“Once the criminal investigation is concluded, the Columbus Division of Police will conduct an administrative investigation,” they added.
— Columbus Ohio Police (@ColumbusPolice) June 9, 2021
“Answers and accountability”
In a statement of his own, Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus, Jr. said Wozniak, a retired FBI agent later tapped to serve as an independent investigator on the case, was hired “last summer to conduct a fully independent investigation into allegations of misconduct of Columbus Police officers.”
“His focus was to determine whether any officers violated the law in their response to protestors and rioters,” Pettus said, calling it “important, necessary work,” as The Hill reported. “Answers and accountability are what the people of Columbus demand, and deserve,” he added. Take a look:
— Columbus Department of Public Safety (@ColumbusSafety) June 9, 2021
The news comes amid increased scrutiny on law enforcement and their responses to unrest in the wake of a recent report from the Interior Department’s inspector general that outlined the U.S. Park Police’s actions during a June 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Washington.
In addition to revealing that former President Donald Trump did not, in fact, order the agency to clear Lafayette Square in D.C. for a “photo op,” the report detailed communication and coordination breakdowns between various law enforcement agencies, according to NBC News. Still, the IG found the Park Police acted lawfully and in accordance with policy, NBC reported.