© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Government & Politics

Columbus Announces Elaine Bryant As New Police Chief

 Elaine Bryant is the new Police Chief in Columbus.
City of Columbus
Elaine Bryant spoke at a press conference after the official announcement of her hiring as police chief.

A day after the information was leaked, Columbus city officials announced that they hired Elaine Bryant as the chief of the Columbus Division of Police. Currently, Bryant is the deputy chief of the Detroit Police. She will be Columbus’ first police chief selected from outside the department, and the first Black female police chief in the city.

City officials are not sure when Bryant’s first day will be. She stressed that she doesn’t want to come in with an agenda. She wants to listen to what Columbus police officers and community members have to say before she decides what to do.

“First 90 days, I have to assess,” Bryant says. “I have to talk to the troops, talk to the community, talk to the elected officials, I have to find out what everybody’s ideas and expectations for me as a chief of police. And then I’d like to convey my expectations of them as well.”

Even so, she says she focused a lot on programming for young people in Detroit. And she’d want to do the same in Columbus.

“I’m absolutely hoping to bring some youth programs here. I think that’s so extremely important. And I think it’s important to get to them prior to high school,” Bryant says. “So I’m looking at middle school-aged children. We absolutely have to wrap our arms around them. We can’t just look at it, we can’t arrest our way out of crime.”

Why Bryant?
Mayor Andrew Ginther calls Bryant a change agent and a reformer, citing accomplishments in her tenure with the Detroit Police as evidence.

“In her 21 years with the Detroit police department, she’s worked patrol in underserved neighborhoods, instituted changes in how homicide teams are assigned, resulting in a 10% increase in cases solved,” Ginther says. “(She) worked in domestic violence, worked in the equal employment opportunity office, internal affairs, and the Detroit civilian oversight. She worked as a liaison between the police and faith communities.”

Ginther also notes that Bryant spent 13 of 21 years with the Detroit Police working under a consent decree. This is important to him because he asked the Department of Justice to investigate the Columbus Division of Police.

Although he was impressed by all the finalists, Ginther says Bryant’s spirit sealed the deal for him.

“For me I think she has, and bishop and I have talked about this, I think the right spirit about her. And an ability to connect. She isn’t just the chief of the police officers of the division of police. She’s the chief for the community as well. And I thought that that really came through to me as I interviewed all the candidates and ultimately made a decision on Chief Bryant.”

Waiting to announce decision
Mayor Ginther said he waited to make the announcement because that’s when it had been originally scheduled.

“Well this was always scheduled, you know, the plan to make the announcement, today. As you know one of the other finalists got a little ahead of us with respect to her announcement and sharing things via social media,” Ginther says. “We respect that. Everybody can do things how they’d like.”

He said there’s always room to grow in communication and engagement with the public, but that he’s proud and comfortable with the city’s transparency in selecting the next chief.

“We thought the best and most appropriate way to introduce Chief Bryant to this community was in this form so we could answer all the questions of the press, engage with the community and be as transparent and open as possible,” Ginther says.

 Left to right: Elaine Bryant's aunt, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Elaine Bryant, Elaine Bryant's mother
/
Left to right: Elaine Bryant's aunt, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Elaine Bryant, Elaine Bryant's mother

Activist reaction
People engaged in promoting police reform are hopeful. Columbus Police Accountability Project Organizer Jasmine Ayres says she’s excited to see someone who wants to get to know the community in the role.

“As a woman and as a Black person, we have concerns that she’s not going to be properly supported by this current administration, who when they get tired of somebody just wipe their hands of them,” Ayres said.

Bryant says the best support the community can give her is just giving her a chance.

“The best support that they can give is obviously giving me an opportunity to come in. I’m gonna be transparent, I’m gonna wanna meet with them, I’m gonna wanna include them,” Bryant says. “I’m gonna have advisory boards, I’m gonna include them in our process in regards to what they think should happen in the department, changes that should occur.”

In a statement, attorney Sean Walton said the Ohio Organizing Collaborative is looking forward to working with Bryant.

“Chief Bryant has significant experience working under a federal consent decree, and as that remains one of the primary goals of CPAP, we believe that she will be able to guide the city of Columbus through that process. This city needs a visionary leader committed to reimagining public safety and establishing a culture that protects the people over bad police officers. We believe that she has the ability to be that leader, and we will hold her accountable to being such.”

Bryant isn’t sure when her first day will be yet, but she says she’s looking forward to moving to Columbus.

In total, 34 people applied for the position. The city hosted a virtual town hall with police chief finalists on May 19.

Copyright 2021 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.