City upholds rejection of complaint against police

Rejection of a complaint of racial discrimination against the Columbus Police Department has been upheld by a city committee.

The complaint was filed against the police department July 6 by a Columbus man, but an internal investigation by the department determined on July 29 that it was unfounded.

The individual claimed he was arrested for lighting firecrackers during a time over the July 4 holiday when firecrackers were allowed, Columbus Police Chief Jon Rohde said. In a letter with the complaint, the individual alleged that police took the word of other people at the scene and not his because of his skin color, Rohde said. The man who filed the complaint is African-American, the chief said.

That person was arrested for disorderly conduct, but it had nothing to do with lighting off firecrackers, Rohde said. Officers reported that the man was using profane language and raising his voice while officers asked him to return to his residence, the police chief said.

Officers were called to the location because a neighbor reported debris from the firecrackers the individual was lighting was falling in his yard. The officer attempted to de-escalate the situation by picking up the firecracker debris himself and asking the individual setting off the firecrackers to return to his home, Rohde said.

The man who had been lighting the firecrackers continued to come out of his house and yell at officers while pointing at his genitalia, which resulted in his arrest, Rohde said.

The citizen who filed the complaint was informed of the department’s decision Aug. 4 and chose to file an appeal Aug. 15 to the city’s audit and review committee, Rohde said.

The Columbus Board of Works created a subcommittee to the city’s audit and review committee Aug. 23 to review the appeal and report back to the board whether the decision was made using sufficient information that was not arbitrary or capricious.

The committee, established by city resolution in 1992, is a nine-member group that acts on citizen complaints against the police department when there is an appeal to the department’s investigation of the complaint. Subcommittee members were Ric King, Dan Mitchell and Annette Barnes.

The audit and review committee is comprised of 11 local residents representing organizations such as the city police department, Columbus Human Rights Commission, the local NAACP chapter and the African American Pastors Alliance, as well as other city leaders, local residents and leaders of the Columbus faith community.

City officials said the appeal was the first the audit and review committee had reviewed since 2012.

Columbus Board of Works members voted unanimously Tuesday to deny the appeal, when ends the process with the city, Rohde said.

Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.