One on one with Mayor Skip Henderson after assessment of Columbus Police Department

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 12:14 AM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Mayor Skip Henderson sat down with News Leader 9, and addressed what he says started two years ago. “We had a record number of homicides,” says Henderson. That number was 70 but according to Henderson that was not the only issue. “We were also seeing a large number of people leaving the police force, it was the year of COVID and defund police and George Floyd and so we lost a lot of folks,” says Henderson.

This, following a presentation from the Fraternal Order of Police President Ralph Dowe in February of 2022, the same man suing the department and chief for discrimination. “We are currently in litigation, I don’t typically say things that I don’t mean without correcting them, and I haven’t corrected it.” And he says after so many officers leaving the force, the council voted and decided on doing a 3rd party assessment on the department.

But Mayor Henderson says the intent was purely to give tools to the department and its command staff. “To look for ways to give the chief of police tools to be able to slow attrition, increase the number of applications and really look at the best practices for crime prevention,” says Henderson.

That meeting happening May 31st, giving the council the decision to enter into an assessment with Jensen Hughes, making it clear that it was at no cost to taxpayers. Which they unanimously approved. But when we asked the community foundation, the organization that footed the almost 190-thousand dollar bill for the study, about exactly when the safe streets fund was founded, Vice President JJ Musgrove told us may of 2022, the same month of the council meeting where a resolution was passed. We asked the mayor a question several people want to know.

“Do you think this is racially motivated?”

“You know, I truly don’t know I choose to believe that its’s not, I think back to the council meeting, I do believe it is an additional trek for Freddie than it has been for other chiefs,” says Henderson. We called every council member to see if they wanted to make comment and all declined except for Councilor Toyia Tucker, she sent us a statement that reads;

“As councilors, besides our fiduciary responsibilities, we are charged with ensuring that our citizens have access to quality public health, public services, and public safety. Regarding public safety, we must provide our officers everything they need in order to protect and serve. We must continue to improve retention and recruitment to ensure we have enough officers patrolling our streets. Things are extremely challenging. However, we must provide chief Freddie Blackmon with the tools needed to not only develop a strategic plan, but also implement and manage the plan,” says District 4 Council Member Toyia Tucker.