Columbus police chief 'stepping back' amid reform efforts after Andre Hill shooting

The Columbus mayor charged that residents have "lost faith" in the chief.

January 28, 2021, 6:17 PM

The chief of police in Columbus, Ohio, is "stepping back" following the death of Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man who was shot and killed by a police officer last month.

The city is now conducting a national search to replace Chief Thomas Quinlan, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced Thursday, who pointed to frustrations around reform efforts as the reason behind the change of command.

“It became clear to me that Chief Quinlan could not successfully implement the reform and change I expect and that the community demands," Ginther said in a statement. "Columbus residents have lost faith in him and in the Division's ability to change on its own. Chief Quinlan understood."

Ginther continued that Quinlan "agreed to step back, so the city can move forward."

Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus also said that he and Ginther "decided to go in a new direction."

"I look forward to continuing the critical work of reforming and strengthening the Division of Police," he said in a statement. "The community we serve deserves nothing less."

Quinlan will be staying on as deputy chief, a spokesperson for the mayor's office confirmed with ABC News.

PHOTO: Interim Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan talks to other members of the Columbus police force at police headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, Feb, 8, 2019.
Interim Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan talks to other members of the Columbus police force and families that had gathered for his swearing in ceremony as well as new sergeants and a lieutenant at police headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, Feb, 8, 2019.
Eric Albrecht/Columbus Dispatch via USA Today Network

Quinlan, a 30-plus-year veteran of the Columbus Division of Police, was named chief of police in December 2019. The position is a five-year appointment. His probationary period was set to end Feb. 7, according to Columbus ABC affiliate WSYX.

"While I very much hoped to continue in that role, I respect the safety director's decision, and the community's need to go in a different direction," Quinlan said in a statement. "We accomplished a lot in my time as chief. We implemented dozens of reforms geared toward accountability, transparency, and strengthening public trust. Someone else will now carry those priorities forward, and I will help and support them in any way I can."

The police division has been scrutinized following the fatal shooting of Hill on Dec. 22 by an officer dispatched to a "non-emergency" disturbance call.

Adam Coy, the officer who shot Hill, did not turn on his body camera until after firing, authorities said. Body camera footage released earlier this month also appeared to show responding officers handcuff Hill before rendering any first aid.

Coy was fired by the city earlier this month after an investigation determined that his use of deadly force was not reasonable. Quinlan had called for his termination.

Andre' Hill in a photo from his Facebook was killed by police in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 22, 2020.
Andre' Hill/Facebook

Deputy Chief Mike Woods will serve as interim chief while the city begins its national search for a permanent chief on an "expedited timeframe," the mayor said. The search firm Ralph Andersen & Associates will help in identifying a permanent police chief.

In the coming weeks, the city will also be appointing members of a new Civilian Review Board that voters approved in November. The city has also set aside $4.5 million to fund new body-worn cameras.

"I want to assure Columbus residents that our commitment to change and reform will not wane as we seek the next leader of the Division of Police," Ginther said. "I remain committed to meaningful, lasting police reform and confronting racism where it exists, advancing social justice so everyone in every neighborhood feels safe."

ABC News' Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

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