COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – It was standing room only during Tuesday’s Columbus City Council meeting. The Fraternal Order of Police addressed the results of a recent survey completed by 73.6% of the Columbus Police Department. The results put the leadership in the Columbus Police Department into question.

Lieutenant Ralph Dowe has served in the Columbus Police Department for 32 and half years and he also serves as the president of the Columbus chapter of the FOP. During the Feb. 22 meeting, he challenged the leadership of Chief Blackmon.

Chief of Police, Freddie Blackmon sat in the first row as Dowe said only 5% of survey respondents said they had confidence in Chief Blackmon.

Dowe says 95 officers resigned from CPD in 2021. Only 2 months into 2022, 16 more have resigned. Dowe says department leadership is a driving force behind the resignations.

232 members (73.6%) of CPD completed the survey.

The FOP survey posed the following questions:

  1. Do you believe the CPD is presently staffed with enough officers to provide the citizens with the level of police service they deserve?

99% answered no

2. Do you feel there are enough officers on the street at any given time to provide adequate backup to ensure officer safety?

99% answered no

3. Do you think issuing Principal’s Summons and the jail releasing suspects on Own Recognizance bonds have contributed to the increase in crime?

95.8% answered yes

4. Under the current leadership, do you think the CPD has become more reactive than proactive?

95.8% answered yes

5. If yes, do you think this has contributed to the increase in crime?

94.7% answered yes

6. Do you think there is good communication between the Chief’s Office and the rest of the department?

93% answered no

7. Do you have confidence in Chief Blackmon to lead the CPD in a manner that provides for fair treatment of officers, officer safety, and reduce crime in the city?

84% answered no, 5% answered yes, 8.3% were undecided, and 2.3% declined to answer.

The full release from the FOP can be found below.

Lieutenant Dowe was given 5 minutes, per the public agenda. As the 5 minutes concluded, Mayor Skip Henderson said he was disappointed with the approach the FOP took in addressing the situation.

“I assumed that I’d have an opportunity to take a look at that information, as we have done in the past and then get together in the next week, then of course if I don’t do anything with it, then I think the next step would be to come on up here … it was really disappointing to me the way this process has played out.”

Mayor Skip Henderson

Dowe says the issue is not about race or Chief Blackmon as a person, but the safety concern for our officers and the citizens that officers have sworn to protect.

“This is not a personal attack on Chief Blackmon as an individual, this is about having good effective leadership and providing a level of service that we owe the Community… I think that our city leaders if they would put the money in support of the police department, and we would get good leadership in the police department and somebody the officers could get behind and the officers felt was behind them we could turn this around and we could staff the department appropriately that we could some point in the future get back to having a safe city”

Lieutenant Ralph Dowe

Mayor Skip Henderson told Lieutenant Dowe, “To me, it doesn’t seem like your looking for answers, it looks like you have already formed the answers and your discrediting somebody you personally have a legal claim against.”

That legal claim is a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Lieutenant Dowe.

In regards to the claim, Dowe said, “They made it seem personal, it’s not personal. Any grievance I file with the city is a business decision, not a personal matter. I have no personal animosity towards Chief Blackmon what so ever.”

City Manager, Isiah Hugley expressed his support of Chief Blackmon.

“Chief Blackmon I see you here and I want you to know that I stand with you I support you and the incredible job the men and women of the Columbus Police Department are doing under your leadership and this unprecedented time”

Isaiah Hugley, City Manager

Hugley followed with a presentation on the back history within the department, as Blackmon is the second African American police chief in department history. Following the presentation, Hugley wanted to address the vacancies through out the entire Columbus government, not just CPD.

As tensions in the room continued to grow, Councilwomen Judy Thomas requested the conversation end.

“I would like to propose this conversation be ended right now, if there are issues we need to take up with the FOP or with the Police Chief or with the Sheriff, that we do that and then come back into this council for approval. I believe the conversation we are having right now in response to the FOP president is wrong. The content may be right, but the conversation should not be happening as part of the public agenda.”

Councilwomen Judy Thomas

In response to the Mayor and Mr. Hughley, Lieutenant Dowe said, “I’ve been offended by the attack on the FOP by the Mayor and the City Manager… we are speaking on a matter of public safety.”

Dowe says the Mayor has been very well aware and briefed on some of the issues within the Columbus Police Department.

Unemployment rates across the country are affecting all industries as the result of the pandemic and social issues, some are calling it the ‘Great Resignation’.

“Departments nationwide are staffed at 93% capacity, the City of LaGrange is at about 90% capacity … we are in a different ballgame than these other cities. What’s happening here, is not happening all over the country. We are losing officers to the Sheriff’s Department,” said Dowe.

News 3 asked Chief of Police, Freddie Blackmon for comment, he declined.

“We should be focused on what’s best for the officers in this city and the citizens that we serve, and we’re not providing a safe environment for them today.”

Lieutenant Ralph Dowe

The entire Columbus City Council meeting can be viewed at the link below.