November 3, 2021
Life After Witt

Leading New Efforts in Community Policing

Janet E. Jackson ’75 Appointed Chair of New Civilian Police Review Board

Attorney, judge, and long-time CEO Janet E. Jackson, Wittenberg class of 1975, has been selected by Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther to chair the Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB), which will provide civilian oversite of police for the first time in the Ohio capital’s history.

The CPRB is expected to lead the search and appoint Columbus’ first inspector general (IG), and in turn, the city will support the IG with professional staff to conduct independent investigations into police misconduct and use-of-force incidents involving Columbus police officers. The IG will be appointed and governed by the CPRB.

For 14 years, Jackson served as president and CEO of the United Way of Central Ohio, the first woman and the first African American to hold the distinguished post in the organization’s 80-year history. She retired in 2017. Additionally, she was the first woman elected Columbus City Attorney and the first African American woman to serve as a judge in Franklin County. She earned her law degree from the National Law Center of George Washington University.

As CPRB chair, Jackson will help establish the framework for how the CPRB will function and work with her fellow board members to help the city.

“We’ve only met a few times, and right now we are setting up the groundwork for how the CPRB will operate,” said Jackson, from Berwick, located on the east side of Columbus. “There are 11 members with the goal of helping to restore trust in police through transparency and community engagement. My job as the chair is to set the agenda, find out what the community wants to see from the board and the IG, and work with key offices to make sure we’re all on the same page. My personal goal for the CPRB is to build the best board and to hire the best IG possible. Most large cities have a board like this, and we are looking at those boards to see what might work best for us. We are reminded every day that this is new and that we are setting the precedence for the future.”

The CPRB is comprised of individuals with varied backgrounds in the community, including a person with experience in labor, a retired police officer, two pastors, attorneys, a retired judge, and Chenelle Jones, Ph.D., Wittenberg class of 2006, who specializes in criminal justice as assistant dean of community engagement and chair of the Public Safety Programs at Franklin University overseeing the Center for Public Safety and Cybersecurity Education (CPSCE).

Jones, who also served on the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission with Jackson, received her Ph.D. in administration of justice from Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, and currently is the national director of research for the Teen and Police Service (TAPS) Academy, a federally funded program designed to reduce social distance between police officers and youth. Her research interests include race and crime, policing, and juvenile delinquency, issues of police/community relations, disproportionate minority contact (DMC), mass incarceration, and the intersection of race and gender in the criminal justice system.

A highly sought-after speaker, Jones has also written numerous articles and book chapters on public perceptions of the police, race, and the administration of justice. She is a reviewer for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and several academic journals including the Journal of Juvenile Justice, the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, and Race and Justice, as well as a crime analyst for TV One’s hit show “For My Man.” Earlier this month, Jones received the 2021 Professional Achievement Award from the Wittenberg University Alumni Board.

Members of the new CPRB, including Jackson, were advanced through the Columbus City Council for approval and will serve staggered terms of two or three years. The city reviewed more than 200 applications for seats on the board and engaged community members to help conduct more than 20 in-depth interviews with finalists. Each member will go through extensive training to learn the ABC’s of policing and scenario training at the academy, and each is required to go on a ride along with police officers.

“It helps us understand what it’s like to be a police officer so we know what they face every day on the job,” Jackson said. “We all want to have the training under our belt before the IG comes on board. The hope is that we have someone in place by the first of the year. We are setting the groundwork for the position and hope to have someone with experience, including investigative experience.”

Repeatedly honored for her leadership and service, Jackson has earned the Allies of Equality Award from Equality Ohio, Woman of Achievement Award from the YWCA of Columbus, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Columbus Education Association, and the 2013 Professional Woman of the Year by the Women of Color Foundation and Woman of the Year by the Niagara Foundation. Additionally, she received the 2015 Mortar Board Alumni Achievement Award, an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Capital University Law School, was named Outstanding Head of Diversity in the Columbus Business First Diversity in Business Awards, and won the Champions of Diversity Legend Award, among many other recognitions.

Jackson is currently completing a second term on the Wittenberg University Board of Directors, having previously served her alma mater in the same capacity from 1989-2001. She is also the managing co-chair of Wittenberg’s Having Light Campaign Steering Committee. Her son, Harrison Sewell, followed in her footsteps, graduating from Wittenberg in 2012.

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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