Ohio’s capital city is disbanding its police vice unit in the wake of internal and FBI investigations and recent charges against an officer alleging he forced two women to have sex with him under threat of an arrest.
Interim Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan announced the news via Twitter on Tuesday night in a posting that said remaining officers will be assigned to other departments. Three of the vice unit’s 10 officers are currently under suspension.
Quinlan said that vice-related crimes, now under the Narcotics division, will be handled differently and with a more community-based approach. Many vice officers and supervisors have already voluntarily transferred to new assignments, the police department said.
Quinlan said his decision is “not a reflection on all the officers involved in vice.”
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Tuesday he supports Quinlan’s decision.
He said he looks forward to Quinlan’s work to “create new units that better serve the community’s needs.”
The unit came under scrutiny last year when vice officers arrested adult film actress Stormy Daniels at a Columbus strip club. An investigation rejected allegations by Daniels that the arrest was a politically motivated action by officers who support President Donald Trump and targeted her because of her allegation she had sex with Trump before he became president.
However, the same investigation determined the arrest was improper.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was arrested in July on suspicion of inappropriately touching an undercover officer. Prosecutors dropped charges hours later, saying the law cited in Daniels’ arrest applied only to those who regularly performed at the club.
Earlier this year, Daniels sued several Columbus police officers for $2 million over her arrest.
Officer Andrew Mitchell , who is accused of forcing two women to have sex with him to avoid arrest, has retired. The division announced Tuesday his retirement was effective March 13, two days after a federal indictment that also charged him with witness tampering, obstruction of justice, making a false statement to federal investigators. His attorney has said Mitchell will plead not guilty.
Also Tuesday, the city attorney’s office announced it had dismissed 18 pending prostitution-related charges against women who were arrested by Mitchell. The cases date back to 2017 when Mitchell joined the vice unit.
City Attorney Zach Klein is also reviewing convictions in which Mitchell was involved dating back over the three decades of his police career.