Update: March 5, 2018 – The city of Columbus terminated Zach Rosen last July. He was reinstated today by arbitrators, eight months later. Rosen will receive back pay for the time missed. Reminder: Columbus has no Citizen’s Review Board for police.
I have held off on writing anything about the Columbus police officer who kicked a suspect in the head, because I assumed more details would emerge, as they usually do.
Now they have, and it seems the officer doing the kicking was Officer Zachary Rosen. This is the Zachary Rosen who was cleared last month by a grand jury in the controversial shooting death of 23-year-old Henry Green.
Columbus police have a reputation for being overly aggressive.
In the 90’s, the department was investigated by the Department of Justice, and was sued for refusing to cooperate.
A letter from the DoJ was written to a Columbus city attorney in 1998, saying:
“We have determined that CDP officers are engaged in a pattern or practice or using excessive force, making false arrests and lodging false charges and conducting illegal searches and seizures.”
The letter goes on to say:
“The officers involved in misconduct many times have a history of complaints against them, and fail to report accurately to their superiors what transpired in the incident (changing the facts to portray the victim as responsible for the arrest, the use of force, and/or the search).”
In recent years, Columbus police have made national headlines multiple times.
Police used tear gas and SWAT teams (!) against celebrating students following OSU’s national championship in 2015.
This January, pepper spray was deployed to clear a downtown crowd protesting the Trump administration.
And then there have been the controversial killings. In September of 2016, 13 year old Tyre King (all of 5 feet tall, and less than 100lbs) was shot and killed, police claim, after he pulled a BB gun from his waist band.
The shooting of Henry Green involved officers not in uniform firing 22 shots at Green (Zach Rosen shot 15 times.) Witnesses claim the police did not identify themselves before the shooting. The incident apparently began because Green walked in front of the plainclothes officer’s car.
Studies have shown that the police here consistently are involved in police shootings more than the national average (and the statistics involving police shooting of blacks are worse – Columbus consistently has the highest rate in Ohio, and in some recent years one of the highest rates in all of America), and we are seeing a volatile situation emerge.
It’s rare that a person is all good, or all bad. Rosen has earned the Columbus Police Department’s Medal of Valor and The Distinguished Service Medal. He earned those saving an injured driver who was trapped and surrounded by downed power lines in a storm in 2012.
But these recent incidents show that Rosen clearly can’t be trusted to interact with the public in a policing role.
Columbus city council and Columbus police should be asking themselves if this is the image the city wants to project.
Mayor Ginther has staked much of his mayoral reputation on crime reduction and more aggressive policing. Incidents like this seriously undermine his efforts in these areas.
I’ve heard some people in the last day wondering what it takes to get fired from the Columbus Police Department. I think, at this point, that’s a fair question.
Rosen has been reassigned to non patrol duty “indefinitely” and an investigation is under way.
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