COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The union representing police officers in Ohio's biggest city said Friday the organization has lost faith in city leaders as officers wrestle with a spiking homicide rate, a record number of fatal drug overdoses and large numbers of guns on the street.
The July firing of an officer seen kicking a subdued suspect in the head spurred union concerns but is only one of the issues that led to Thursday night's no confidence vote, said Jason Pappas, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9.
Pappas said the percentage of the city budget dedicated to public safety — which includes fire fighters — has fallen from 2011 even as the city's population grows. Pappas said the number of police officers has stayed about the same during the same time, with 1,904 sworn officers. He'd like to see an additional 100 officers hired immediately.
"This isn't about one issue, this is about a lot of issues coming together. And we see this thing starting to collapse," Pappas said at a Friday afternoon news conference. "We're losing our community, we're losing our neighborhoods to crimes and drugs, and we have to stop it now."
Thursday's vote went against Mayor Andrew Ginther, City Council President Zach Klein and Public Safety Director Ned Pettus.
Public safety is the city's biggest budget item annually, said Ginther, who says he's committed to strengthening the department and hiring new officers.
"We will continue to invest in the tools, technology and training needed to keep every resident in every neighborhood safe," Ginther said.
Klein, also a Democrat, said his support for officers is unwavering but he also expects them to perform their duties responsibly.
Last month, Pettus fired officer Zachary Rosen, overriding a recommendation by Columbus police Chief Kim Jacobs that Rosen be suspended for 24 hours, amounting to three shifts.
A video taken April 8 shows a Columbus officer restraining a prone man and preparing to handcuff him when a second officer — identified as Rosen — arrives and appears to kick him in the head.
"The strike/stomp was an untrained technique and was found to be unreasonable," police said in May following a report by a deputy chief.
Since the city began collecting higher income taxes in 2010, spending on public safety — including police and fire — dropped from 69 percent of the budget in 2011 to 66 percent of the budget in 2017, the Columbus Dispatch reported Friday.
Columbus saw its 80th homicide Thursday. The city had 106 homicides last year and 99 in 2015.
Columbus police confiscated 69 guns last week, up from a weekly average of about 50, Pappas said.
The Franklin County coroner says the county in central Ohio saw 173 overdose deaths through April of this year. That's a 66 percent jump from the same period a year ago.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com