COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Embattled Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon outlined a strategic plan to a pack room at city council Tuesday morning.
Blackmon has been under fire for his leadership of the department he has commanded for more than two years.
Blackmon spent 40 minutes outlining a plan that would pay officers and civilians more. The plan included making the retirement packages more attractive and adding more sworn officers and civilians to the force.
When Chief Blackmon finished his presentation prior to taking questions from councilors, he got a standing ovation from more than half the room.
Columbus Council gave Blackmon four weeks to come up with a plan in response to a study by consulting firm Jensen Hughes that questioned transparency and leadership within the department. That study was presented to council a month ago.
“I can tell you I thought he did a good job on the presentation given the amount of time he had to put it together,” Henderson said. “He clearly defined four lines of direction. I have not had a chance to look at the other handout he left. But I assume it’s going to kind of merge into that. I think he did a good job.”
Those four areas Blackmon emphasized are Personnel, Operations, Training and Community Engagement. They come with an undetermined budget cost.
Blackmon has been the flashpoint for criticism during a surge in violent crime across the city. He has also faced mounting criticism from inside his own ranks.
Blackmon declined to comment before he left the City Services Center.
During the presentation he proposed a way to get tougher on suspected gang members.
“We’ve already met with our district attorney’s office, and we already have this agreement where those individuals will be brought up on a direct indictment for a gang participation charge,” Blackmon said. “And this charge will provide an even more severe punishment upon conviction.
Three hours after Blackmon finished, Columbus went into an executive session to discuss a real estate acquisition and a personnel matter.
After about 20 minutes of closed session all the staff left the room. That left only elected city officials, the city attorney and the clerk. That session lasted more than an hour.
Blackmon did not shy away from the city’s gang problem.
No action was taken when city council emerged from the closed session.
Two Columbus pastors said Blackmon made his points, presented his plan, now council must back him up. The costs of Blackmon’s proposals have not been determined.
“We don’t have the option of doing nothing,” said Rev. Michael Powell, a United Methodist Church pastor. “And I think if we could take his initiative, his plan, and support him as much as we can and I know it all comes at a cost. But sometimes its better to consider what something costs not to do it than to do it. Sometimes not doing something costs you more than to do it.”
Rev. Johnny Flakes III of Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church agreed.
“I am a believer that budgets actually expose one’s values,” Flakes said. “It exposes one’s morals. It exposes one’s integrity. But it also exposes what people actually treasure. And if we really treasure and truly value safety, in our community, then the budget will reflect that.”
Councilors declined to comment on Blackmon’s presentation after the six-hour meeting.
Councilors Pops Barns, Gary Allen and Bruce Huff praised Blackmon on the presentation during the meeting. Huff called it “on point.”
Councilor Judy Thomas asked a number of questions about the possible costs.
Blackmon’s strategic plan was a response to a Jensen Hughes survey presented to council a month ago. It outlines transparency and leadership issues in the department.