Police chief candidates face tough questions at public forum

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - At a forum Wednesday night, the public had a chance to hear from the four finalists for Columbia's top cop job.

No one was allowed to ask questions at the event. The questions were all emailed in prior to the event.

The four candidates talked about the first five things they want to accomplish.

Meeting all of the officers and staff, as well as doing an assessment of the department were common answers.

"I would spend a considerable amount of time with my other parties in state government. The reduction of crime is not a law enforcement role alone," said Anthony Fisher.

"We have to formulate a plan. One of the things that's very striking to me is the city is poised and has grown leaps and bounds. We have to have a plan as a police department to grow with that," said William Holbrook.

"Have to have an honest conversation with city manager and elected officials about some needs of the department to progressively move forward," said Bryan Norwood.

"We need to bring back the time when children see a police cruiser go by and see them as, that's the person I want to be. That's the person I want to grow up to be. That's my role model, not the thug in the street corner," said Gregory Reese.

When asked about combating gangs, all said they had experience. The most mentioned solutions on the topic were education, prevention, and identifying gang members.

The question that brought the biggest reaction from the crowd was "Can you be an effective and efficient chief with so many layers of reporting due to bureaucratic nature of the city government?"

"If I can't live in an environment of trust, accountability, and readiness, I can't be your police chief. Yes, there's layers of bureaucracy, but as I understand the chain of command, there's one person I'm responsible to, and that's the city manager," said Reese

"I can tell you the one thing that's true about all types of government, there are politics, but I have no problem saying no. I have no problem saying no. I have no problem answering questions either," said Norwood.

"One thing that is crystal clear to me, they have a boss and that's the police chief. I have a boss and that's the city manager and it's imperative I respect that chain of command and I ask for that respect to be reciprocated," said Holbrook.

"I would hope that whoever is selected chief, that all of us know our place and we take our place responsibly and that none of us would put the other in harms way as it relates to how we govern," said Fisher.

The candidates were also asked about how to recruit and retain officers. Money and ability for job growth were two key points brought up by the candidates.

The four men left the room as soon as the forum ended Wednesday night.

City Manager Teresa Wilson said she is proud of the finalists and feels they have a lot of wisdom.

"Really, at this point, the decision is mine, and I recognize that. Whether or not I re-engage a couple of these folks or have my decision determined based off this engagement with the four, or decide to bring back two, I don't know yet. I'm still going to pray on that and give it careful consideration," said Wilson.

She is sticking with her original timeline, which is to have a chief on the job by mid-March.

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