Perhaps you've seen them around town.
Columbus Division of Police officers wearing baby blue safety vests with the words "Columbus Police Dialogue Officer" printed on the back.
What's a Dialogue Officer, you ask?
"The purpose of this team is to facilitate 1st amendment activity," explained Sgt. Joe Albert, an aide to Chief Elaine Bryant. "In the past, we have created spaces for those who wish to engage in 1st amendment activity, but now we are taking a more active approach to facilitating those activities."
Sgt. Albert is referring to protesters, in particular the organizers.
"We will work more closely with groups so they can use more of their resources to police themselves," says Sgt. Albert. " Through doing this, we will work with groups to limit the influence of outside influences that would interfere with 1st amendment activity with criminal conduct."
Sgt. Albert says three officers are currently assigned to the unit on an as-needed basis. In the past, he says CPD used bicycle officers to patrol protests and strike up a dialogue with them.
"We are now shifting this work to a specifically trained team to engage groups," says Sgt. Albert. "This will allow our incident commanders to focus on the overall event and for bike officers to focus on their specific roles during an event. These teams will be able to put into context both the activities of the group to the police and the activities of the police to the group. These teams will allow another layer of safety for officers and the public when dealing with large crowds."