City officials introduce police chief William Holbrook - - Columbia, South Carolina

City officials introduce police chief William Holbrook

William Holbrook William Holbrook

In an introduction ceremony that was equal parts pomp and circumstance and a sigh of relief from city leaders, the City of Columbia introduced its new police chief Friday morning.

Chief William "Skip" Holbrook, 49, hails from Huntington, W. Va., where he was chief of police for seven years.

City Manager Teresa Wilson, who led the selection process for the past several months, introduced Holbrook in front of CPD Headquarters at 9 a.m. 

In her remarks, Wilson said it became apparent Holbrook would be her choice after seeing how the chief matched the characteristics community leaders said they were looking for in a new chief.

"We're going to embrace a new era of integrity and leadership in this department and I know you can do the job and I'm very proud of you," said Wilson.

After his introduction, Holbrook took to the podium and gathered his emotions. He paused for a short time to look over the crowd.

"Don't let this be a sign of weakness," he said to the laughter of the assembled crowd. "This is humbling. I feel so welcome here."

Holbrook then thanked the city, the selection committee, Wilson, Mayor Steve Benjamin, city council, and his wife, saying becoming the next CPD chief gave the couple an opportunity to come home to the Carolinas.

"This is a dream for us," said Holbrook. "It'll be our home."

Holbrook said he felt at home in Columbia following meetings with citizens, city officials, and fellow members of the law enforcement community -- mainly SLED Chief Mark Keel, who Holbrook said he connected to immediately because they've worked together in the past.

"God has a plan for all of us and there's a reason I am here," said Holbrook.

But Holbrook knows he has a tough task ahead of him and says partnerships and collaborations with other law enforcement agencies in the are will be the key to the department's success.

"During the process, it was very evident how challenging this job would be," said Holbrook. "It became clear to me that it was the professional opportunity of a lifetime, though."

CPD's new chief has already gotten to work to remake the department in his image, giving Wilson and police majors a strategic plan and a 90-day action plan he called a "starting point" to map the future of the Columbia Police Department.

The strategic plan includes creating a five-year plan to restore credibility and stability to the department.

"This plan will contain measurable goals and objectives. We'll establish benchmarks for success, and I am very, very committed to this," said Holbrook. "You have to know where you're going if you ever want to get there, and that is exactly what we're going to do."

One of Holbrook's first courses of action as part of his 90-day plan is to assess the police department and learn the inner workings of its employees. He'll also immediately get to work in creating relationships with other law enforcement agencies and addressing any "deficiencies" with in the department.

Holbrook's second goal, he said, is to begin planning out the department's organizational preparation and enhance operational capacity.

"We're going to empower our employees to find solutions and best practices, create expectations, establish open communication. Views and opinions are valued, and they're going to be expected," said Holbrook.

As for his final phase, Holbrook said he plans to create a "bottom-up" management within the department that will be mission and goal-oriented.

"Employees are going to have a say on where we're going," said Holbrook.

Holbrook closed his remarks with a simple promise.

"I pride myself on being a cop. I'll never ask anyone under my command to do anything I have not done or not willing to do. I believe in participatory leadership. The chief must have a vision, lead by example, actions, and their words. I won't let you down. I won't let you guys down," said Holbrook.

Mayor Benjamin also had a few remarks prepared for the ceremony, calling Holbrook a "top-flight police chief"

"We're all behind you, we believe in you, and we know you're going to make us proud," said Benjamin.

Holbrook graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Marshall University in West Virginia and a master's degree in business administration from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina.

Holbrook began his law enforcement career in 1987 as a police officer at the Charlotte Police Department. He then moved on to work as a special agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for 12 years.

After three years of being self-employed in property development, Holbrook got back into public service and started his job as chief in Huntington.

Holbrook's list of honors includes the medal of merit for his work with the Charlotte Police Department, the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award by the West Virginia Association of Justice and the award for District Agent of the Year by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Holbrook takes over a department reeling from accusations lobbed against former Chief Randy Scott and former Interim Chief Ruben Santiago.

Scott resigned from the department to focus on treating post-traumatic stress disorder, an issue he said he developed when a fellow officer died.

Santiago was accused by a former police captain of a "black ops" plot to plant drugs and a stolen weapon on a city official's car. However, the investigation found no reason to charge the interim chief with any wrongdoing.

Santiago ultimately stepped down from the interim chief position to take a job in the private sector.

Holbrook has already submitted his letter of resignation in Huntington. His last day there is April 7.

Meanwhile, Holbrook will officially begin his duties at CPD after his swearing in on April 11. His salary has been set at $121,500.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly