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Investigator issues order calling for Columbus police officers to cooperate with probe into protests

According to the city, those who received the orders are witness officers, not officers who are under investigation.

The Department of Public Safety announced the independent investigator looking into police response to last year's protests has issued orders to six Columbus police officers to answer questions to help complete investigations.

According to the city, those who received the orders are witness officers, not officers who are under investigation.

The city adds the information these officers can provide is essential to help identify officers who may have committed a crime.

Rick Wozniak, a retired FBI agent, was hired by the city to investigate potential crimes by officers during the protests last summer following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Kathleen Garber, a former Franklin County Assistant Prosecutor, was hired as well to serve as a special prosecutor.

The city says Garber has determined there is probable cease to believe that some officers committed misdemeanor crimes and many officers witnessed these actions.

According to the city, extensive efforts have been made to cooperate with the witness officers including assurances of immunity from prosecution or administrative sanctions.

Only five witness officers have agreed to be interviewed after being guaranteed they would not be criminally prosecuted, the city said.

The six who were issued notifications have refused to be interviewed or provide information on other officers. They also provided an internal website to provide information anonymously.

“This investigation has one focus: accountability to the people of Columbus,” Garber said. “No one is above the law. That includes law enforcement. If laws were broken, we will hold those responsible accountable. It is concerning and disappointing that the people standing in the way of that accountability are fellow officers.”

The city says officers who refuse could be subject to departmental charges of insubordination.

On Monday, 10TV's Lacey Crisp reported that five of the officers under investigation filed a motion through their attorney for a temporary restraining order against the city.

The officers argue because of the Fraternal Order of Police contract with the city, officers must be investigated by the Columbus Division of Police, not the city or the independent investigator.

The filing argued the city's tactics to gather evidence were unconstitutional and violate federal case law and Ohio rules for criminal procedure.

Attorneys representing the Fraternal Order of Police in Columbus claim the order violates the collective bargaining agreement with the city. A spokesperson with the Department of Public Safety said thier office "disagrees with that interpretation of the contract."

Attorneys for the FOP filed a motion in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas asking a judge to halt the city's order.