Columbus Police Department internal audit released

Published: May. 31, 2022 at 6:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - We’re learning more about the findings from an audit on the Columbus Police Department.

Police Chief Freddie Blackmon took on the role in November 2020. Since then, the department continues to struggle with hiring and retaining new officers, a problem that dates back to the previous administration.

This is the first time the Columbus Police Department has ever been audited in all operational aspects.

This is being labeled a ‘transitional audit’ following Chief Blackmon assuming the role after the retirement of police chief Richard Boren. This internal review was performed by one Columbus Consolidated Government employee which lays out findings and recommended future practices based on tangible evidence.

“This report is a snapchat of where the Columbus Police Department stands at a certain point in time,” Elizabeth Barfield, forensic auditor for the City of Columbus, said.

The internal audit for the Columbus Police Department has been underway since February of 2021, costing taxpayers roughly $70,000.

Findings presented to city council Tuesday show several outliers, the main ones: salary disparity within the same pay grades, the amount of cash kept within the department, staffing problems and organization of evidence stored within the department.

In 2021, 90% of employees who left the department were officers, corporals and sergeants, all frontline first responders.

“I kept hearing the phrase, ‘recruitment is not a problem it’s retainment,’ so I thought let’s take a look at that and find out,” Barfield said. “I looked at the number of applications received for employment. In 2019, there were 899 applications for people who wanted to work for CPD. In 2021, there 345 applications received for people who wanted to work for CPD.”

Whenever one officer is lost, The recruitment and training process to replace an officer takes approximately one year, not including experience lost.

Next: the handling and storing of cash within the department.

“They are storing currency in the office,” Barfield explained. “You actually have employees handling currency and moving it from one point in the process to the next. That has got to stop.”

“We do a quarterly audit to ensure to the penny, each area has the amount of money that is supposed to be present,” Chief Blackmon said. “The police work that it takes place is different from other areas with the city government.”

You can take a look at the evidence area in the department. Barfield said the amount of evidence coming in far outweighs the amount going out. She recommended more manpower to dispose of it.

“We’re putting groceries in the refrigerator but not taking them out,” she explained. “It gets overloaded, you start losing space and organization becomes at risk.”

“Of course, as court cases are moved along, we’ll have the chance for evidence to move along,” Chief Blackmon said.

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