EXCLUSIVE: Columbus private sector businesses fund operational assessment of Columbus Police Department

Keeping police on the job, uneasiness with their pay, and low moral due to leadership and management issues are just a few issues a prominent consultant company highlights should be fixed within the Columbus Police Department.
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 10:57 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Keeping police on the job, uneasiness with their pay, and low moral due to leadership and management issues are just a few issues a prominent consultant company highlights should be fixed within the Columbus Police Department.

News Leader 9 got its hands on the draft copy of the results of a recent operational assessment of the police department. The assessment funded by high profile businesses looked at dysfunction within the department and the factors that may be hindering efforts to hire and retain officers, while highlighting the areas the department performs well in.

“We’re going to look at every single thing that’s in that report.”, said Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson. “The whole idea behind this was to come up with a road map that our police department could use to try to use to make sure our streets are safer and our department is stronger. Some of this stuff is already in the works.”

The Mayor is the only person out of almost a dozen people News Leader 9 asked to go on camera about the findings of the operational assessment. Jensen Hughes Incorporated, a risk management company headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, came back on November 11th with a 132 page report filled with 78 recommendations on things the Columbus police department needs to do to better serve the citizens of Columbus.

The group of ‘leading’ businesses in the Fountain City partnered with Columbus Consolidated Government, and anonymously paid the cost of roughly $180,000 to have it completed over the course of 8 weeks. The report came back on November 11th after a series of roughly 90 interviews with department stakeholders, including: Police Chief and Command Staff, CPD Supervisors, Patrol Staff, Investigators, and Civilian Staff, City Officials, Muscogee County Sheriff, Community Members, and Business Community Members.

News Leader 9 obtained a letter addressed to the Mayor from Police Chief Freddie Blackmon. He addresses the assessment and questions it’s Merritt. He cited the report relies heavily on a survey done by the local chapter of the fraternal order of police last year that claims out of more than 200 members who are police officers, more than 80 percent have no faith Blackmon’s ability to do his job. He wrote in part quote “This survey has not been verified in its processes or documentation, and its neutrality is certainly in question. I do not believe the results are necessarily accurate or reflective of the department as a whole.’

“We want to honor the partnership we created with the the private sector and we want to make sure that they understand we want to do everything we can to implement everything as fast as we can.”, said Mayor Skip Henderson. “There are a lot of things. Everything from better use of technology to restructuring some of the organizations and the departments inside the police department.”

Jensen Hughes, Inc. is responsible for looking into the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments following the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The list of issues they highlight hindering Columbus police are subjects like retention, low moral due to current leadership and management issues, and police salaries, the leading issue. The Chief’s letter goes on to write, ‘We will continue to focus our efforts there, as we have for the last few months in discussing and implementing the public safety pay plan what was approved by the council.

The assessment points out the number of officers walking out the door at CPD. From 2016 to now, tt claims 400 police officers left the department, averaging 49 officers a year. Police Chief Freddie Blackmon took over in November of 2020. In 2021, 84 Officers left under Blackmon’s leadership and the report claims although CPD on the recruitment front, pointing out the addition of 300 officers since 2016, the agency has no plan in place as far as retention. It’s also important to point out that CPD’s training program is also in line with best practices, and the promotional process for certain ranks is transparent although the same can’t be said for when an officer is assigned to various bureaus within the department.

Then there’s the issue of staffing. There are 118 officers assigned to work in the patrol unit, officers who work the streets and respond to calls. The assessment suggest CPD needs another 157 to 196 officers in that unit, based on the 10 shift rotation CPD is currently on, and right now officers are being pulled from other units to help pick up the slack.

According to Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson, it’s unclear when the company will have the final draft of the assessment. When it is available, there are plans for it to be presented at City Council in the future.