Columbus police chief presents strategic plan to council, community reacts

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 4:24 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 10:39 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon presented his strategic plan for the department on Tuesday morning. Chief Blackmon had 30 days to develop, and present a plan to the council per a request from city council members on February 14.

Chief Blackmon’s presentation follows the publication of a third-party assessment of the Columbus Police Department conducted by private company Jensen Hughes. The report listed 70 recommendations for the department ranging from leadership, gang strategy, department communication and transparency.

Chief Blackmon addressed the council on Tuesday by providing a 45-page strategic plan for the police department covering seven specific areas.

  • Retention
  • Recruitment
  • The Bureau of Investigations
  • Technology and use of data
  • Leadership development
  • Career development
  • Community policing

In the area of retention, Chief Blackmon proposed revising the department’s current retirement plan to include more money for retirees.

“Our officers are seeking 20 years of service and to be able to receive 60 percent of the salary, or 25 years of service to be able to receive 70 percent of the salary or 30 years of service with 80 percent of the salary with no age requirements,” said Chief Blackmon.

Chief Blackmon is requesting additional funding from city council in order to reach the standards outlined in his plan.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley says the city will be able to fund quarterly bonuses of $1,500 starting as soon as April.

“When it comes to public safety, we don’t have the choice of doing nothing - we propose to reinstate for the Columbus Police Department and 911 operators the $1,500 a quarter supplement that we recently discontinued when we implemented the pay plan,” said Hugley.

Several council members gave thanks to the chief for completing the task, giving a detailed plan, and answering their questions in response to the Jensen Hughes assessment.

Chief Blackmon did not take any questions from the media following his presentation.

WTVM’s Ashlee Williams asked Chief Blackmon, “Chief how are you feeling?” In return, both the chief and Assistant Chief Dent-Fitzpatrick both said no - and nodded their heads no.

The city council chamber was packed with people - even more than in attendance than on February 14 - including a crowd of people standing outside the chamber.

Blackmon has had the top cop position since November 2020.

Several community members commented on the amount of time the chief had to develop this plan.

“I think he did a wonderful job. As for the time they gave him, to get that strategic plan together, he did a good job,” said Columbus resident Bruce Conage. “He was very proactive with what he presented to council, so I think they will be very satisfied with what he presented today,” added Conage.

“I think three years is long enough. He should have come in with a plan of action,” said Columbus resident Dr. Chris Harman. “We had a crime problem when he came in, and we’ve never heard of anything until it’s demanded of him to present some answers to this problems. It shouldn’t take three years,” said Dr. Harman.

Marvin Broadwater Sr. announced he was disappointed about how Mayor Skip Henderson and city council members handled the February 14 meeting - explaining he attempted to contact several city council members about his concerns, and only got a response from one.

“Remind council members there are ways to address their concerns without publicly attacking any city leader... Only one responded, thank you Councilman House. That’s a failing grade. That’s an ‘F’,” said Marvin Broadwater Sr., a Columbus resident.

“When you have people riding around and they feel like it’s ok to fire a gun into a city park, something’s got to happen. I’m tired of it, and I’m asking you guys to do something about it,” said Dr. Harman. “I urge you all to make a hard decision. It’s time to rip the band aid off of this problem and get the leader in here.”

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28 at 4:00PM ET.

For the complete plan, click here.