Clarification: A previous version of this story was unclear as to the Civilian Police Review Board’s role in taking disciplinary action. Only the city’s public safety director and/or police chief may take disciplinary action, based on the board’s recommendations.
If the newly minted Columbus inspector general and Civilian Police Review Board take on the fatal police shooting Tuesday of Donovan Lewis, it would be their first major investigation since taking office in July.
Mayor Andrew Ginther said during a press conference Tuesday that the inspector general would review the Lewis slaying and two other city police shootings in an eight-day period after the criminal investigations are complete, which could take months.
The three shootings in late August are the first high-profile cases of possible misconduct by Columbus police since the independent Department of the Inspector General opened. Voters approved a charter amendment in November 2020 that tasks the Inspector General with investigating allegations of Columbus police misconduct and making recommendations to the civilian board.
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Inspector General Jacqueline Hendricks would not confirm in an interview Friday with The Dispatch whether her office will be taking on the fatal police shooting of Lewis or two other recent police shootings.
However, Hendricks said her office does not perform criminal investigations and would not interfere with any criminal investigations.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI), which is under state Attorney General Dave Yost, is investigating the shooting of Lewis and the Aug. 24 non-fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old suspect with a gun who jumped out of a car along with another male. Those investigations are likely to take several months to complete. Once finished, they will be presented to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office for possible indictment.
Ohio BCI declined to investigate a police shooting that happened Aug. 22 when an officer shot at but did not hit either of two fleeing suspects. The Columbus Division of Police will conduct an internal review of that incident, which resulted from a call to the Wedgewood Apartments complex in the Hilltop about a group of men with guns there.
Speaking generally about how the new civilian investigative process works, Hendricks said the city Inspector General’s office looks into complaints from citizens.
“Our role is to receive complaints and allegations of misconduct by Columbus Division of Police officers like excessive use of force and look into whether or not that interaction was a violation of policy and procedure,” she said. “We work in tandem together with the board.” After investigating, the Inspector General’s office would then compile a report — including recommended actions such as possible discipline — and present it to the Civilian Police Review Board. That volunteer board would review the findings and decide whether to approve them and present them to either the city’s public safety director or police chief.
In order for the public safety director or police chief to take disciplinary action, it would have to comply with the police union’s collective bargaining agreement.
Hendricks said her office has opened some investigations already, but has not closed any yet.
Franklin County coroner: Donovan Lewis’ autopsy report could take months to complete
Meanwhile, Lewis’ autopsy report won’t be available for a while. Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz said it takes her office an average of 10 to 16 weeks to complete such reports. Ortiz said preliminary reports might be available sooner in some cases.
Ortiz said every report is unique.
“Our reports may be used in court, therefore every effort is made to ensure these reports are accurate and thorough,” she said. “The process of performing an autopsy, determining cause and manner, obtaining any labs, medical reports or law enforcement reports that may be needed to complete the report, writing up the report and then having the report go through a (quality assurance) process can be lengthy.”
Visitation, funeral services for Donovan Lewis set for Sept. 10
The coroner’s office said it has released Lewis’ body.
According to the Marlan J. Gary Funeral Home Chapel of Peace’s website, services for Lewis will be held Saturday, Sept. 10 at the funeral home, 2500 Cleveland Ave. Visitation is at 1 pm and the funeral begins at 2 pm
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: New inspector general, civilian board may take Donovan Lewis shooting