Nationwide search begins to find Columbia's top cop - - Columbia, South Carolina

Nationwide search begins to find Columbia's top cop


Announcing a newly-launched nationwide search for a new police chief, city administrators said the person they're looking for will "provide bold leadership and exemplary services" to advance the city's quality of life.

City officials and residents might wish for something else from the new top cop: someone who knows how to cut crime without creating controversy and remain in office for a while.

The department has had seven permanent or interim chiefs over the last six years.

"One of the things I think just from a longevity standpoint, we want someone who wants to be committed to the city of Columbia and consider it home," said City Manager Teresa Wilson. "And love the quality of life that we have to offer and look at this as a real opportunity to come and lead a department that already has a lot to offer."

Wilson and other city leaders thought Columbia would have a permanent chief in place by now.

Back in July Wilson set a goal of hiring a new chief by September, following the sudden and strange resignation of former Chief Randy Scott.

In a tearful news conference Scott said he was leaving the job doing so after a three week leave of absence, a bout with stress and PTSD and reports of possible disciplinary action by Wilson.

Scott's tenure had ups and downs hiring success, improved morale and a statewide law enforcement award.

He'd also received heavy criticism for the department's handling of the investigation into the disappearance and suicide of hospitality official Tom Sponseller.

Taking over for Scott as interim chief, Ruben Santiago campaigned hard to be considered as the front-runner for the permanent job.

But Santiago too, has been tagged by negatives. There was a blowup over an ill-advised Facebook message and a lawsuit from former officer Dave Navarro, accusing the chief of scheming against a top city official.

"Unfortunately we had to delay the process but we're ready to move forward at this point," said Wilson."I haven't had any indication of the investigation concluding anytime soon, concluding so we feel like we need to move forward." 

Applicants have a month to get their application in.

Voters will soon decide whether they want to change to a strong mayor form of government and if that happens the police chief's employment status could be determined by Mayor Steve Benjamin not City Manager Wilson.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.

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