Council President Shannon Hardin on 'unnecessary' pepper-spray incident and the need for police reform

Andy Downing
U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin try to intervene as Columbus Police use pepper spray during a protest on South High Street near the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Saturday, May 30.

Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin joined protesters Downtown early on Saturday to stand in solidarity with a community reeling from the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Hardin, who was joined in the crowd by U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, was among those pepper-sprayed by officers with the Columbus Division of Police. Video and photos of the incident quickly circulated on social media.

Calling from his home at the end of what he called “a long day for our city, a long day for our country,” Hardin termed the officer’s use of pepper spray in that moment unnecessary. “I saw police that were not showing as much restraint as what the moment required,” he said.

Regardless, Hardin said he was heartened by what he saw from the protesters, whom he described as justified in their show of anger and frustration, though he did note that there was a small contingent, perhaps less then one percent, who might have been “trying to take advantage of the moment.” The rest, he said, were simply expressing anger and the need for a fundamental shift in U.S. policing.

Count Hardin among those who want to see changes. He repeatedly stressed the need for CPD to incorporate a civilian review board, which wasrecommended by the mayor’s safety review board but has yet to be adopted. Hardin would also like CPD to review de-escalation techniques, among other things.

"The people have spoken, and I hear you. The time for commissions and studies is over. The time to institute real police reform is now," Hardin said in a statement released Saturday night. "Columbus needs to establish independent investigations into police use of force, including negotiating a Civilian Review Commission into the next police contract. Columbus needs to change the use of crowd dispersal techniques, as recommended by the Matrix report."

While the protests show little sign of abating — on Saturday afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine called in the National Guard while Mayor Andrew Ginther instituted a city-wide 10 p.m. curfew — Hardin said he ultimately hopes some good can surface from the ugly scenes that have unfolded in recent days.

“Maybe we needed this weekend for our city,” he said.