Exclusive: Columbus police officer shares insight on low patrol division numbers

Columbus Police Officer claims 8 to 11 officers patrol city at a time on any given night.
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:14 AM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - News Leader 9 was able to get a copy of a fairly new assessment of the Columbus Police Department, which is making its rounds in the community. It’s a confidential document funded by a group of businesses in Columbus. They paid a consultation company to investigate issues within the department. It points out the good, the bad and the ugly.

Jensen Hughes, a consultation company looking into the Columbus Police Department, on behalf of high profile businesses in Columbus, suggests with the current 10 hour shift rotation Columbus police use, they estimate the department needs another 157 to 196 officers on the streets responding to calls.

A current police officer, who wants to remain anonymous, is concerned with how few officers the department has assigned to the patrol division. He said, “Below 150 officers would be critical. Now we’re below 100. We’re at 91 or 92.”

The officer went on to say, that number is split between three shifts. At the time of this assessment, around November of last year, the group estimated there were 118 officers assigned to the patrol division. We spoke to the officer January 28th.

The assessment reads as follows:

“3. The CPD is currently understaffed, impacting its ability to engage in proactive policing and community policing and its ability to investigate crime and effectively address gang activity in Columbus. Our staffing study estimates the CPD needs between 157-196 officers and corporals assigned to patrol to respond to calls for service and still have 50 percent to 60 percent of their time dedicated to proactive policing. One of the reasons for this high number is that the current 10-hour patrol work schedule is inefficient. Currently, the CPD has assigned 118 patrol officers and corporals to patrol. If the CPD were to change patrol to a 12-hour schedule, the patrol officer estimate is reduced to the range of 127 to 158, depending on the amount of time the administration wants dedicated to proactive policing. The current 118 personnel assigned to patrol falls below that range, but it is also important to note that the CPD reduced the number of persons assigned to several specialty units to fill gaps in patrol, severely limiting the effectiveness of these specialty units. We estimate that the Bureau of Investigations will need another 20-22 officers assigned to the Bureau to investigate crimes and engage in proactive policing effectively. In part, the understaffing can be mitigated by converting some functions currently filled by sworn personnel to civilians.”

The officer told News Leader 9, at times Columbus police have only had anywhere from 8 to 11 officers on the streets during some shifts, not to include the lieutenants and sergeants who, according to that officer, are there to supervise and typically do not patrol. The officer added, lately those ranks have had to pick up the slack.

Through the Open Records Act, News leader 9 obtained three years of duty rosters from January 15th, which shows how many officers are on duty in 2023, 2022, and 2020, a year when another chief was the head of the department.

In 2020, on January 15th which was a Wednesday, there were 18 officers on the street during the 10 P.M. to 8 A.M. shift. This was former chief Ricky Boren’s last year on the job.

Fast forward to 2022, Chief Freddie Blackmon had been chief for a little more than a full year. On the same date and shift, this time a Saturday, there were 13 officers on the streets.

On January 15th this year, there were 16 officers on duty for the night shift. That was a Sunday. These numbers don’t include officers in training. According to the assessment, the police department is pulling officers from other areas to patrol the streets, which is putting a further strain on the units they come from.