Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther appointed Elaine Bryant as the new head of the Columbus Police Division, following months of turmoil in the force amid a series of high-profile fatal police shootings of black men and boys.
“We need a police chief who is committed to change. We need a leader with extensive experience in law enforcement, as well as good judgment, empathy and a commitment to community policing,” Ginther said during a news conference on Wednesday. “We found all of this in Elaine Bryant.”
Bryant has been with the Detroit Police Department since 2000 and has held various positions with the agency, including as commander of the agency’s felony unit. At his application, he promoted his skills in several areas, “including community relations, emergency preparedness, strong administrative training, investigation, and proactive surveillance.”
Bryant will be the city’s first black police chief.
“I’ve faced many obstacles in my journey, some because of my gender and some because of my race,” Bryant said in her first time speaking as the boss. “I’ve never let these obstacles get in my way.”
The selection was narrowed down to Bryant and finalists Avery Moore, an assistant to the Dallas police chief, and Ivonne Roman, the former Newark chief, New Jersey, Police department.
Roman tweeted his congratulations to Bryant Tuesday. “Sending BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Detroit Deputy Chief Elaine Bryant on being selected as the next Columbus, OH police chief. She was stellar during town hall and Columbus residents are lucky to have her,” he tweeted.
Additionally, Moore told WTTE-TV and The Columbus Dispatch that he was not selected. “I was disappointed,” Moore told the Dispatch. “I was hoping for the opportunity, but I’m very busy in Dallas and I have to keep working.”
Ginther has been adamant that the new boss comes from outside the department, saying that was the only way to enact the kind of broad cultural changes he was seeking at the agency.
As part of the selection process, Columbus also created a first deputy director position to allow the next boss to bring his or her own team. Ginther has said the candidates wanted that ability to allow them to implement their own plans.
In January, Ginther expelled the man he selected for the 2019 job, Chief Thomas Quinlan, a veteran Columbus officer, saying he had lost confidence in Quinlan’s ability to make the necessary changes.
The announcement comes at a time of historic reckoning for the department. Ginther and other officials invited the Justice Department in April to review the agency for deficiencies and racial disparities in various areas.
The department is also under scrutiny for the recent fatal shooting of black people by white officers, including the death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant on April 20.
Earlier this month, the city agreed to pay $ 10 million to the family of Andre Hill, a 47-year-old black man who was shot and killed by former officer Adam Coy as Hill exited a garage with a cell phone. It is the largest civil settlement in the history of Columbus.
Coy, who is white, was fired after the shooting and pleaded not guilty to murder and reckless manslaughter charges in Dec. 22 Hill’s death.
Also this month, a federal judge ordered the city to alter the way it responds to mass protests, saying officers went “crazy” during protests over racial injustice and police brutality last summer.
The union representing Columbus officers has criticized what it calls politicians “constantly smearing officers.”
The Columbus agency, like many major city departments, is juggling calls for internal change even as it fights an increase in gun violence. Columbus recorded a record 174 homicides in 2020 and as of mid-May it had recorded 74 so far this year, a figure that was not reached until the end of July last year.