COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In a 92-page internal report the Columbia Police Department examined their handling of the protests and riots that happened back in late May of 2020.
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook put together a committee of personnel from both CPD and the city of Columbia, to take a close look at the protests and riots that happened in downtown Columbia.
Starting with the violent demonstrations outside CPD headquarters on May 30th.
More than a dozen people were arrested and 15 law enforcement officers were hurt during a day of protests that started peacefully at the South Carolina State House but later turned violent.
The report going as far as to say that CPD underestimated the “level of feeling within the community” leading up to those protests, and only found out about the scheduled gatherings the day before on May 29th.
“We underestimated the emotion and anger of the crowd,” said Holbrook.
The internal document also touching on the political climate in both the country and Columbia, that the committee believes helped lead to the violent protest outside of CPD headquarters.
The report references not only the George Floyd case in Minnesota and the Breonna Taylor case in Kentucky, but also local cases that the committee believes contributed to the unrest here.
Like the officer involved shooting of Joshua Ruffin and the on-going investigation into the killing of 7-year old Knowledge Simms.
Chief Holbrook telling WIS that it was that unanticipated raw emotion of the demonstrators, coupled with the city of Columbia’s history of peaceful protests, that likely affected the tactical decisions made by the department when dealing with their response to those protests turning violent.
“We were caught a little flat-footed in terms of just the raw emotions that were there and how surgical it was focused on us, once it left the State House and how quickly it evolved,” said Holbrook. “So that was the immediate glaring deficit or deficiency that we saw.”
The report also providing pages of feed back on how the Columbia Police department can prepare for these types of situations better in the future.
Under the planning and preparation section, the committee explains that because the department only found out about the protests the day before it happened, they were forced to ‘react to situation to regain control’, instead of ‘proactively maintaining control’.
The report also stating that the departments mobile field force teams were ‘under-prepared’ for the event.
Some of the recommendations within the document include planning as early as possible for these types of events, developing plans and contingency plans that remain in place, and having the department conduct regular trainings to make sure everyone knows their roles in these types of situations.
Chief Skip Holbrook says the department was able to make some changes following the first day of protests going into the second.
“Lesson learned from the first day. We could not allow people to get in close proximity to the police department again,” said Holbrook. “We had people with the proper protective equipment to hold the line or move the line, we gave ample warning and we exercised our authority based on the curfew in place.”
Other recommendations in the report included building permanent fence around CPD headquarters and other facilities to help protect them from future civil unrest in the city.
Despite the shortcomings outlined in the report and the changes that need to be made, Chief Holbrook says he’s proud of how his department handled a situation unlike any they have seen before.
“We showed courage and compassion and restraint. To me what I’m most proud of is our officers and how they reacted to adversity. Its kind of being used a lot now but when we say this was unprecedented, it was unprecedented,” added Chief Holbrook.
You can read the full report by clicking here.