COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — At today’s Columbus City Council meeting questions were raised about the Columbus Police Department.
Those questions came during the presentation of a privately funded study into issues and concerns in the department.
A Jensen Hughes study of the workings inside the police department was presented to Council more than three months after a 132-page draft copy of the report was completed.
The findings? There are leadership and transparency issues within the Columbus Police force.
As Sydney Roberts of Jensen Hughes outlined the study that was privately funded by Columbus businesses, Police Chief Freddie Blackmon sat in the audience. And that audience was heavy with police officers and command staff.
“We spoke with the officers that spoke of not having full insight into what was happening within the police department,” Roberts told Council. “And how decisions were made.”
Blackmon listened to Roberts’ summary of the report that was based on 90 interviews –- 60 with sworn officers – two Columbus visits and reviewing procedures and crime data.
When it came time for him to speak – Blackmon said the biggest issue was the retention of officers. He never mentioned the leadership and transparency challenges the report outlines.
After the meeting WRBL asked Blackmon this:
Do you feel that your leadership was under question in that report and in that hearing?
“Well, as I stated earlier, we will definitely review the report and look at ways we can improve our department, and every member of the department and we will work on our strengths, and continue to keep those as strengths,” the chief said. “As far as areas we need to improve on, we will improve those areas, as well.”
After listening to Blackmon’s response to the report, Councilor Judy Thomas called the situation “disturbing.”
“This report has been out for quite some time,” Thomas said. “And we have not seen – I have not seen and I don’t think the other councilors have seen – any kind of a strategic plan in development presented to us. We have been told the command staff has developed one. But we have not seen it.”
Councilors voted unanimously for a plan to be developed and presented to them by March 14.
Councilor Bruce Huff recognized the issue and articulated it this way:
“I think it’s time for all of us to come together because we are all on different sides,” Huff said. “And we need to come together. The chief and everybody knows how everybody feels and what the problems are. But in order to make him a better chief, we need to rally around now and put a formal plan together.”
Huff said the concerns must be addressed.
“If Columbus is going to contend to be the amazing place that we say it is, Columbus Does Amazing, then we need to be amazing and – no pun intended – police our own household,” he said.