COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – A group of community activists came to the defense of Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon at Tuesday’s city council meeting. The show of support comes after a tense display at the last council meeting, when the president of a police organization challenged Blackmon’s leadership.
The Fraternal Order of Police packed Columbus council chambers on Feb. 22, as the organization presented the results of a survey challenging Chief Blackmon’s leadership.
Tuesday, the chamber was packed once again—this time, with ministers and community leaders who support Blackmon. They delivered a plea to Columbus city leaders: give Blackmon time to develop responses to the officer shortage and rising crime.
“We wanted to advocate that our city council not be swayed by any political gesturing or jockeying that may be going on during this time,” said Adrian Chester, the President of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. “But that they provide the chief of police with their support, not only through visual support, but also resource support so that the community can feel safe and he can effectively do his job.”
Blackmon was present as Chester and other leaders came to his defense; a stark contrast from the comments he faced two weeks ago. At the previous council meeting, he sat in the front row as President of the Columbus FOP, Ralph Dowe, called into question Blackmon’s ability to lead the department.
Dowe, who has served in the Columbus Police Department for 32 years, claimed CPD officers have lost faith in Blackmon. He showed the council the results of a phone survey conducted by the FOP board. Of 232 respondents, only 5% of officers said they had confidence in the chief.
Wayne Hailes, the President of the NAACP of Columbus, raised questions about the survey results.
“What we know now is that it was an unverifiable survey that was conducted by just a few members,” Wayne told News 3 after Tuesday’s council meeting. “Now, what we have uncovered is that all of the members weren’t contacted; but the way it was presented was wrong, I think, for [Dowe] to come in front of city council with that without having to go one-on-one with Chief Blackmon.”
Blackmon spent more than three decades rising through the ranks of the Columbus Police Department, but has only been chief for the past 15 months.
He’s faced mounting criticism coming off a year of record-breaking violence. Columbus recorded 70 homicides in 2021, shattering the previous high of 46.
Chief Blackmon and city leaders say the police department is stepping up patrols and cracking down on crime, but they’re doing so with a department already stretched thin.
In January, Blackmon told News 3 the department had between 120 and 130 open positions.
Blackmon says the department is well-staffed enough to provide adequate service, but fighting the crime spike takes time.
“[Columbus police] will continue to work together and make Columbus a very safe place as we continue to go forward,” Blackmon said after Tuesday’s council meeting. “I know it’s a process, but we’ll be here to work together throughout that process.”