CPD chief candidate withdraws from consideration - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

CPD chief candidate withdraws from consideration after councilman's 'cavalier' comments

A. Tony Fisher (Source: City of Columbia) A. Tony Fisher (Source: City of Columbia)

One of four finalist candidates for the Columbia Police Chief position has withdrawn from consideration.

Retired Spartanburg Public Safety Director A. Tony Fisher notified City Manager Teresa Wilson via letter Wednesday that he has withdrawn his name from consideration. Fisher was one of four finalists selected by Wilson to be considered as a replacement for Randy Scott.

Fisher told WIS late Wednesday City of Columbia Councilman Cameron Runyan's push to merge the police department with the sheriff's department contributed to his decision to move on.

"When a leader questions the capability, capacity, and sincerity of someone who works for the city, it becomes extremely difficult to do your job," Fisher said. "For those who put their lives in danger, those who take 911 calls it becomes painful. And, you can't take that pain away."

Fisher said he also took issue with statements Runyan made to a local newspaper back during the two days City Manager Teresa Wilson brought the candidates to Columbia.

"...Councilman Runyan mentioned while we were there too, that he thought age should be a factor as it relates to the selection process," Fisher said. "I thought it was an insulting comment, not only to me but over 20 percent of the voting population in the City of Columbia, cavalier statements like that of city leaders, I think give people pause to say 'Is this really something I want to be a part of? Or perhaps there's something else I can do and make a contribution to' and certainly, obviously I made my decision before the discussions tonight. But I think my decision was appropriate based on what I observed over the past several weeks."

Fisher also said the process that has been played out in the police chief search has deterred the discussion instead of addressing the real challenges of public safety.

"I think the real challenge is the number of men and women who daily answer 911 calls and provide an extraordinary service to people who are in distress," Fisher said. "They seem to be the phantom people who are associated with this whole discussion. They daily go out and put their lives in harm's way and the discussion is at a totally different level. I think that we need to reassess and think about what is really trying to be accomplished and not minimize the extraordinary work by the officers who are there and cavalier inappropriate statements are not solved by just an apology. They remain and they are hurtful and I think to some extent it has affected the organization and perhaps will for some time."

The Columbia Police Department has been without a permanent chief since Scott resigned nearly a year ago.  Ruben Santiago has been serving as interim chief.

Fisher's withdrawal leaves three finalists left for consideration: Col. Gregory Reese with the Air Force Command at Paterson Air Force Base in Colorado, former Richmond, VA Police Chief Bryan Norwood and William Holbrook who is the current Chief of Police for the Huntington, West Virginia Police Department.

Wilson has been working with a selection committee to hire a police chief for the past three months. She is expected to make a hiring decision by the end of March.

The letter Fisher sent to Wilson is below:

After much consideration, I withdraw my name as a candidate for the Chief of Police for the City of Columbia. I would like to think the Citizens who served on the search committee and worked assiduously to recommend the best candidates for the city of Columbia. Also to all the citizens who sat for hours during the arduous task of interviewing each candidate, thank you. And to city staff much success in your efforts in selecting the next Police Chief.

Thanks for the opportunity to participate.


A. Tony Fisher

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