Columbus Police Celebrate Anniversary of STOP Domestic Violence Program

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – It’s been one year since the City of Columbus and the Columbus Division of Police launched the “STOP” program, aimed at preventing domestic violence-related homicides.

“STOP” means choke team operations for prosecution. Officers undergo 80 hours of training to better identify cases of strangulation. They also learn how to investigate a domestic violence case and engage with victims.

“We’re seeing things now that we’ve never seen before, especially because of the strangulation,” said Columbus Police Officer Joshua Bell.

More than 50 patrol officers have volunteered to be part of the Columbus Division of Police’s “STOP” team. The team was formed after a law was passed in 2023 making strangulation a felony in the state – the same year the city of Columbus was experiencing a massive increase in domestic violence-related homicides with a total of 25 all year round. So far this year there have been four. Bell said the way officers approach these cases has changed.

“Before, patrols didn’t really have a lot of follow-up with our victims,” Bell said. “It gave us a direct path to be able to communicate with them and help them when they have questions about the process and help them stay more informed about their case.” And also, it helped them to be able to go all the way.

Police said last year this team investigated more than 300 cases of domestic violence by strangulation. City Attorney Zach Klein said these cases can be complex. He said the training these officers receive helps prosecutors build the strongest possible case against the suspect.

“This partnership we have with the Division of Police helps gather the necessary evidence so prosecutors at the county level can put these people behind bars where they belong.” They threaten their families. They pose a threat to society,” Klein said.

On Tuesday, each arrest team officer received a personalized pin for their uniform and a personalized coin in recognition of their hard work. Bell said they feel the impact they have every day.

“As they said at the meeting, once a person has been strangled once, there is a 750 times greater chance of being murdered by that same person. So when we can step in and help and get someone out of that situation or accompany someone else, even accompany a suspect, even if it’s just for that one night, to end that situation and the to get it to where it’s not so volatile, whereas for us it’s a window,” Bell said.

Columbus police said that since the formation of the STOP Team and the passage of the chokehold law, the number of criminal domestic violence cases referred to the Franklin County Prosecutor has more than doubled. City officials said the first-ever $1 million bond for a domestic violence suspect was the result of this team’s work.