By Deba Uwadiae, with pictures by Taiwo Akinlami
Chief Elaine Bryant made history as Columbus’ first Chief of Police from outside of the division. Even with more than two decades of law enforcement experience, coming from out of state included the requirement that she and 1st Assistant Chief LaShanna Potts become OPOTA-certified within their first year of employment. The chiefs completed 176 hours of training, primarily on Ohio-specific statutes and laws. The amount of training required was determined by OPOTA after examining the training they had received in Michigan. Police Chief Elaine Bryant and 1st Assistant Chief LaShanna Potts were Tuesday, April 5, 2022 ceremonially sworn in, and spoke to the media before the event:
Last 9 months
1st Assistant Chief LaShanna Potts: I can say for the Chief and I, the nine months coming in, we came in during a pandemic, we came in after the civil unrest, and from there we hit the ground running. And so, for us, this is time for us to be one of the team and for the officers to look at us and know that we’re one of them.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: Absolutely. And I will just add to that, that we wanted to make sure that our officers know that we have the same qualifications that they have. And it was important for us to take the test. We want to make sure that we are inclusive of our officers, and we want to look like them. So, we’re really excited to be in our uniforms today. We feel very, very much part of the team.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: Part of the requirements for the state of Ohio that we pass the OPOTA (Ohio Police Officer Training Academy) exam and have certification for it. We didn’t have to take the entire Academy; we came in with credit that we had in Michigan. So, we had to take those classes to make up for the training that OPOTA required. And then we went ahead and took the test. It was important that we do it. We wanted to make sure that we were certified in the state of Ohio. And here we are.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: I will say that the difficult part was not so much the test itself, it was finding the time to study and running the city, doing community relations to getting to know the officers, and getting to know the residents. It was just very time consuming. But we were dedicated, and we were very much to do it. So, we set a goal and we made our goal.
1st Assistant Chief LaShanna Potts: I don’t see it as a challenge. I think that the chief and I came in highly qualified to do our job. The community has embraced us, the officers have embraced us and every little hurdle that we’ve run into, we’ve been able to get community support and support of officers to get over it. I think we just take each day as it comes. We’re on the right track, like the chief said, time is down. We’re not claiming victory. But we are going to give ourselves a pat on the back for creating a great team and an atmosphere that breeds success.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: We are very much dedicated in making sure that we give attention to all of the crimes that occur in the city of Columbus. We have not stopped. While there may be some low or downtime in regard to leads, that doesn’t stop us from looking at cases and ensuring that anytime we get any type of lead, we follow, we also do case reviews. We are very hands on with our detectives, and they are very dedicated to solving these cases. So, we won’t stop. We will, and we’re going to continue to try to get justice for these families.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: Well, we credit it to the hard work of the men and women in blue. We also credit it to the residents in the city because they have clicked to working with us as well. They have been inclusive with us and trying to figure out how to solve this crime. They’ve been very helpful and giving us tips. They’ve been very interactive with us. Our residents have stepped up. And they’ve been extremely helpful in helping us solve a lot of crimes. So, as we saw more crimes, you will see a decrease in crime. Because as we know, there’s not a large number of people committing a lot of these crimes. It’s a smaller number of people. As we lock them up and hold them accountable, we hope that this trend will continue, and crime will decrease.
1st Assistant Chief LaShanna Potts: We have a couple of community programs that we’re starting. One will be the brotherhood and sister program. It’ll be in high schools in the city of Columbus. It was extremely successful in Detroit. We believe if we wrap our arms around kids who are challengers and the leaders that we can come out on and with them, the challengers becoming leaders. What we saw here coming into Columbus is that a lot of our young people don’t have things to do. If you create an avenue for them to be able to be constructive, you’ll see that they will not be out there stealing cars, and one of the things that they are doing currently. So, we’re working on that implementation.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: It’s very important. We’re very transparent. And we want to make sure that we include the community in any decisions that we make. So, we work very closely with our community, we have a police advisory panel that we work with as well. And we’re going to be rolling out some things under our leadership that I think is going to be pretty exciting with regards to making sure that the community is informed of everything that’s going on.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: I think it’s a partnership. We know that everything that we do is going to affect the community. We want to include them in our decision making. Transparency is important and bringing them to the table before we make major decisions to say, how do you feel about this? How do you think it’s going to affect you? And what do you think this is going to look like? And how do you feel that you will be a part of it? That’s really important for us.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: Now we get an opportunity out there with our officers, more opportunity to go to the roll calls to go on police runs, to go visit our units, our bureaus, and to go to more community events. You’ll see a lot more of us out there.
1st Assistant Chief LaShanna Potts: Absolutely. Absolutely. We built a beautiful team of dedicated members of this division. As we said before, we came in and officer said, right there on the rocks, the community has been amazing. I will tell you, to wrap up, my nine months has been phenomenal, phenomenal journey, starting from a captain in the City of Detroit, from a single mother. And now I’m sitting at the second female highest in the division, you can’t get any better than that.
Police Chief Elaine Bryant: I agree. I echo her words, wholeheartedly. The city has embraced us, the officers, they have embraced us. And I feel like because of that, and because of us, allowing them to be a part of this change, that we have created an environment that is very successful, and it’s extremely momentous because we’re going to keep moving forward and allowing our officers to help us with this change. And I think as we include them in it, you’re going to see happier officers, see more productivity and you’re going to see crime decreasing and you’re going to see more of us out in the neighborhood. So, we’re ready.
Yes, we are. And we are blessed.
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