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History Statement on Police Shootings

In the aftermath of the recent police shootings of two unarmed African American men, Casey Goodson Jr. and Andre Hill, and serious concerns about the even more recent police shooting of a 16-year-old African American Independence High School student, Ma’Khia Bryant, the Department of History at Ohio State finds it necessary to publicly condemn these killings in Columbus, which are part of an ongoing pattern of the killing by police of people of color around the country. These killings include individuals who were experiencing mental health crises, were not resisting, were unarmed, and/or even moving away from the police.

The Columbus Division of Police has a deplorable record of race-based killing. They kill Black people at a higher rate than other departments in Ohio, a “top ten worst state for racial disparities in police killings.” This disturbing statistic is compounded by the fact that America leads developed democracies around the world in killings by police.[1]

Regardless of the additional phenomena that can, and sometimes do, complicate these shootings, the ultimate cause of the pattern in Ohio and the nation is systemic racism and the 400-year history of its cultivation and perpetuation.

We deeply empathize with the experiences and concerns of people of color who are uniquely affected by these injustices. We acknowledge the resulting pain and stand in solidarity with everyone who wants to live in a just society.

Given these facts, the History Department at The Ohio State University demands immediate action by university leadership on the following items:

  1. Assure the provision of resources for students, staff, and faculty (particularly people of color) who are adversely affected by the most recent killings;
  2. Initiate a dialogue with student activists seeking action around these issues in order to understand and act upon their concerns;
  3. Launch a data-driven evaluation of the relationship between The Ohio State University and the Columbus Division of Police with a particular focus on actions taken on or near campus;
  4. Ask the U.S. Department of Justice to initiate a “pattern-or-practice”[2] review of the Columbus Division of Police.
  5. Utilize university research expertise to investigate the extent to which and how the Columbus public safety services might better integrate personnel whose education and training makes them more capable of de-escalating dire circumstances, handling persons who are in the midst of a mental health crisis, and creating practices that can improve public safety in general. The university should turn the results of this investigation over to Columbus city government, together with specific recommendations based on these results.

Because of the immediacy and seriousness of these conditions, we respectfully demand a written response, including a dated timeline for the implementation of these action items, by Monday, May 17, 2021.