COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia City Council members recently held a series of public meetings with residents about an important law enforcement issue. The city is weighing whether to contract with the Richland County Sheriff's Department to manage and oversee the Columbia Police Department.
Under such a contract, Sheriff Leon Lott would run both the Columbia police and his own sheriff's office. Of course, the Sheriff is elected county-wide and runs his office with county funding, while the city chief answers to the city manager, who controls hiring and firing.
The cultures of the city police department and the county sheriff's office are also different. City police are, in general, paid more. While sheriff's deputies have higher fitness standards. But in light of the city's struggle with frequent leadership changes in public safety, I think an arrangement to consolidate law enforcement is worth considering.
Mayor Steve Benjamin's transition team urged him to identify possible areas for partnerships that could lead to more consolidation of public safety services. And we agree with the mayor's team that such a move needs careful deliberation and study.
But there's no doubt our city police need consistent and strong leadership. And I believe Sheriff Lott has the management skills needed to provide that kind of leadership.