Pulling into a parking lot half flooded with dirty rain water in front of a park, just off a bumpy road. It’s 6:00 pm in Linden, a neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio suffering from some of the worst crime and poverty issues in the area. The crime rates in North Linden are 107% higher than the national average. South Linden‘s crime rate is 153% higher than the national average.
Locals take seats at various different tables inside Linden Community Recreation on 1254 Briarwood Avenue to allow residents to have real conversations with police officers ranging from patrol officers to the chief of police.
At Table 9 sits a few Linden residents with Commander Kelly Weiner and two bike officers who work the Ohio State University Campus area; partners: Officer Davis and Officer Hurley. A woman born and raised in the Linden neighborhood describes Linden filled with sounds of gunfire and sights of prostitution. She cares about her neighborhood and routinely makes reports to the cops about suspicious activity. Even though she relies heavily on the police, she can see how hard it is for the community to view the police as a positive force. She tells the table about one of her negative experience with an officer. Coming home late on a snowy night, she saw a car coming towards her as she swerves off to the side of the road, she honks her horn. She didn’t realize it was a cop until after the passing car whipped around and turned on his sirens. The cop came to her car door laying into her for honking at the police. Eventually, he let her go on her way. This was one of many negative interactions she has had with the police in Linden. She felt as though she was profiled that snowy night and it wasn’t the first time. These feelings, these negative experiences, these are the reasons why we are here for this community event. A local Linden gentleman at the table holds a separate conversation with Officer Davis about police shootings and police conduct. He mentions a double shooting of a woman who owned a local daycare Success Kids and her brother. Her killer, her husband shot by three cops; although he survived, it does bring up the question “Is it excessive for three officers to shot multiple time at one suspect?“ As a father of an autistic son, he continues on, mentioning the Mount Vernon autistic man’s death in what seems to be an excessive amount of force to take him down. The autopsy hasn’t been released but many believe the head trauma from the police take down was the cause of death.
The people here are committed to their community. The women who spoke earlier sadly admits the crime has driven her out of Linden. She wants to know what she can do to help her childhood home whether she will be living there or not. The other gentleman at table 9 admits he is a felon but looking to get out of a life of crime.
“I want to be able to take something from here back”– The Linden gentleman says
“We care about you guys and I hope you guys care about us too. We are all in this together” – Officer Davis
The police at table 9 want us to know they are human. If they are having a bad day, it can help create negative interactions with us. It is hard to push back across the table when the police are being so open and honest about their line of work. Officer Hurley shares how his job can be incredibly difficult.
“Mother had left her child with the father of the child. The father killed the child and throw him in the dumpster. When we arrived, he was standing on his child in a water filled dumpster.” – Officer Hurley
Per the officers at the table, our city is taking care of them with voluntary and mandatory employee assistance programs. These sessions are great for those who take advantage of it.
“We need community support, community involvement…community pressure ” – Commander Kelly Weiner
The two officers and commander at the table have more than three decades of service. They speak on behalf of the Columbus Police as they ask us to put pressure on our communities to have empathy and understanding for police officers. We need to put pressure on the community to respond respectfully, non-confrontational tones when communicating with police. The cops are not there to harass and most of the time they’re just responding to a report of suspicious behavior.
“Believe it or not we don’t want to arrest you” – Officer Davis.
Community initiatives will continue to move towards connecting Columbus with dialogue. Further efforts for forwarding movement include our police currently testing out body cameras. There are concerns about privacy and logistics; however, they seem excited about the body cameras not for them but for us. Advocates for body cameras say it would help ease tensions with the community by giving transparency. Studies show the use of force and complaints against officers both significant declines with the use of body cameras.
As Columbus, Ohio looks towards the future it should look bright.
The officers tell us a story of a male in their patrolling area whom they have had many run-ins. Officer Davis asked him about his feelings of the Columbus Police Department.
“Dude listen, it’s different in other parts of the country. I been to prison with people all over the place and heard their stories. Absolutely, even if I am running from you guys, I don’t believe you will unjustly shot me. You guys do your job very well. I have heard crazy stories about other police and other police departments” – local petty criminal.
The officers at table 9 believe the reason why the Black Live Matters marches have not turned violent considering Columbus, Ohio has had its share of high-profile case; such as, Henry Green shot by plain dressed police officers, witness claims didn’t identify themselves; Obbie Shepard suspect in stealing a bike was hit by a patrol car and later shot after police report he shot at them; Jason White an army veteran shot after threatening an officer with a knife; James Barber shot in the right shoulder while helping a friend who was threatening suicide; Abdul-Rasheed shot during struggle to subdue him; to name a few.
Other communities are raising up violently before investigations are completed, yet, Columbus/Linden we have not had violence in our protest or marches. Commander Kelly Weiner credits this to strong ethical policies. The officers confirm the policy of requiring detailed documentation of almost every interaction dating back over 15 years.
Linden area is not only stricken by crime but also poverty. Police officers deal on a daily base with social issues like poverty, mental issues and the cycle of crime.
“Too often, law enforcement gets scapegoated for the broader failures of our society and our criminal justice system,”– President Obama.
The officers agree to that sediment and sadly confirmed there is nothing they can do to stop the endless cycle of crime. They have seen it over and over again in their decades of service. Officer Hurley shares with the table a story about a family that he became fond of after many, many, stops over 3 or 4 years. Their son a big kid, smart, very polite, and very good. This kid was decent at school, good at basketball with potential. His father goes to jail. Soon you could see the boy starting to veer off in the wrong direction, hanging out with the wrong kids. Officer Hurley tried to talk to him, even stopped by on a couple of Christmas Eves yet this kid now a teenager ends up in jail. The officers say on daily basis they try to talk to these kids on the street but see little to no progress.
Poverty, mental health, broken families, amongst a few social issues are up to the voters to elect government officials who will focus to end poverty, end the war on drugs, end the cold shoulder to areas like Linden. The opportunity for change comes every 2 to 4 years.
Thank You, Columbus Division of Police for the use of the Pictures!