Turnover at the Top: Six people have been chief at CPD in seven years

Chief Randy Scott
Chief Randy Scott
Tandy Carter
Tandy Carter
Dean Crisp
Dean Crisp

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It has been a tough past few years for the Columbia Police Department. In the past decade, there have been many men who have taken the mantle of the Capital City's police chief.

Since former Police Chief Charles Austin left the job completely in 2003 to take the position of city manager, there have been three full-time police chiefs and many more interim chiefs.

When Austin left the department, he hired former Greer Police Chief Dean Crisp in June 2004. Crisp held on to the job until late 2007 when he announced his surprise retirement.

Crisp was under a considerable amount of heat from City Council and those inside his own department because of his decision-making.

One such decision involved an incident on Samson Circle. In that incident, police and Richland County deputies surrounded the home of 38-year-old Richard Lewis Catoe, Jr.

In an effort to end what became a tense standoff between Catoe and law enforcement officials, Crisp ordered in the police department's SWAT team.

Catoe was later shot and killed. Some officers questioned Crisp's decision because they believed it provoked Catoe into confronting law enforcement.

On top of that, questions surrounded whether or not Crisp was allowing members of his family to be close to crime scenes.

Lawsuits, complaints, and general low morale amongst the department book-ended Crisp's last days in the department.

Months later in March 2008, Austin announced he had hired Shelby, North Carolina police chief Tandy Carter as the city's new top cop.

Carter's tenure started quietly, but he was immediately put to work in trying to fix several problems unearthed in a report compiled by a panel tasked with looking into the police department.

That report found serious communication, manpower, and leadership problems at CPD.

For two years, controversy seemed to subside at the department until an accident involving then-Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin and Deborah Rubens, an employee at the Clarion Hotel on Gervais Street.

Benjamin was on his way to a media interview just hours after being elected the city's first African-American mayor.

CPD officers responded and investigated the accident, but several members of City Council wanted the South Carolina Highway Patrol to examine what exactly happened during the accident to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Carter insisted from the start that his department could conduct the probe impartially without calling in the state Highway Patrol. He even asked the Attorney General's Office to see if the Patrol could look into the case.

During this time, City Manager Steve Gantt began looking into Carter's actions and his overall body of work at the department.

Days later, Gantt fired Carter. In a letter to his staff, the city manager said he had fired the police chief "in the best interest of the city."

Carter spoke to the media shortly after his termination was made public. He used his time to say he did not tolerate or appreciate outsiders telling him how to run his department.

"I am a professional police chief," said Carter. "I've been police chiefing for about 20 years of my life. I am not a puppet police chief."

Following Carter's tenure, a plan was discussed to allow Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott oversee the department for a year, but that plan did not survive a City Council vote. It was during that time, Randy Scott, second-in-command at the Sheriff's Department, was asked to be interim police chief in October 2010.

Just two and a half months later in January 2011, Benjamin asked Scott to fully take the reins at the department. Scott called the opportunity an "honor."

"[It's] an honor to have the opportunity to serve the community that I grew up in and I went to school in and that my parents and family live in," said Scott.

However, in early April 2013, Scott took a mysterious leave of absence for "personal reasons".

Just three weeks later during a tearful news conference, Scott said a diagnosed case of post-traumatic stress disorder pushed him to resign from his post.

In the moments during his first State of the City address in 2011, Mayor Steve Benjamin noted the turnover at the top spot of the police department.

"It's time to stop the revolving door at 1 Justice Square," said Benjamin.

With the search for a new chief set to begin in 60 days according to city officials, that revolving door has opened once again.

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