Council comes down hard on Columbia cops

Just to give y’all something to discuss while I’m tinkering around under the hood of the blog, how about this for a topic:

Columbia City Council members Wednesday publicly questioned the police department’s decision to investigate Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin’s April 21 car accident, characterizing it as “a series of … horrible decisions.”

“We are wearing our credibility out,” Councilman Kirkman Finlay said. “My personal opinion? It’s disheartening.”

Council members said city residents are complaining, loudly, about the need for an outside agency to investigate. Benjamin, too, asked for an outside investigation, on the day of the accident that seriously injured the other driver but left him unhurt….

“I believe the credibility of the city and the investigation is at stake,” [Mayor Bob] Coble wrote. “Clearly there is a conflict with the City Police investigating the Mayor-elect just as if it were the Mayor. It would seem we have an obligation to avoid the appearance of a conflict as well.”…

Wednesday, reacting to what they said was public pressure, council members were ready to enact a new policy that would require the police department to turn over any investigations involving the Columbia city manager, assistant city managers, council members or council members-elect. Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, who proposed the policy, also wanted to include in the resolution language that would ask the Highway Patrol to take over the Benjamin accident investigation.

“It would help remove a cloud of uncertainty in the eyes of our citizens and residents,” Gergel said….

You should read the whole story. Pretty scathing.

It appears that the only people who think the Columbia Police Department should control this investigation is the Columbia Police Department.

5 thoughts on “Council comes down hard on Columbia cops

  1. Melanie Graham

    Where was their reaction to public pressure when all that stuff was going on with Rickenmann and Devine and the Empowerment Zone loans? This group is a joke…and the Citizens of Columbia that continue to vote them in (either by going to vote or by not voting at all) deserve this crew. I don’t profess to know if Chief Carter is doing the right thing in this case but at least he is standing up for his beliefs and backing his officers. In this regard he has shown more character than the council that is judging him.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    Adam Beam has posted that the Highway Patrol has refused to take over the investigation.

    I have to say that, while I don’t understand Chief Carter’s reasons for keeping the investigation, I have no doubt that CPD will do a thorough and impartial investigation. It is too bad that we cannot trust our civil servants even when they have done nothing to warrant our suspicions.

    Because City Council cannot sway Tandy Carter, he has proven that he also would not kow-tow to Mayor Benjamin.

  3. Bob Sacamanto

    I think a few things need to be said about this thing that I haven’t seen elsewhere:

    1) If Benjamin had nothing to hide, he would have demanded that the Highway Patrol take over immediately. Yes, yes, we’re told he requested it…but it’s easy to “request”, if you know the person making the decision won’t agree to it…if you have something to hide. If he really wanted it, it would have happened. No question. If you just finished blowing a big pile of dough running for mayor and being keenly aware of how everything you do “looks”, you got the political sense enough to know to demand the outside investigation. He didn’t, and that speaks volumes.

    2) If he had nothing to hide, he would have demanded a breathalyzer test on the spot – to remove any and all doubt. Now we’re left with “he didn’t appear intoxicated”, blah, blah…and the trooper that gave that second opinion did so more than two hours after the wreck. Maybe he was drunk. Or maybe in the back of his mind he thought there was a chance he might have blown a .08, even though he (or others) didn’t think he was drunk. Again, it’s something Benjamin could have done to remove any potential cloud over this and he didn’t. And again, it speaks volumes.

    3) The focus here has been on Tandy, but again, there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that Tandy made such a stupid decision – and has stuck with it against any and all wisdom, to the point of facing losing his job – all by himself. Again, we’re back to Benjamin…and it leads one to believe Tandy at least initially thought there was a reason to help cover for Benjamin, whether it was necessary or not…and now he’s “dug in” to cover for the fact that he was covering.

    4) If you hear of Benjamin settling any potential civil litigation with Rueben’s (sp?) family out of court, you KNOW there was something to hide…as the last thing he would want (if guilty) would be anyone and everyone who was around him that night to be put on the stand and testify.

    Unfortunately, this whole sorry episode tells us a lot about our city government and the people charged w/our safety.

  4. Susan

    I know just about as much as everyone else (with I think is “nothing”) about why Mr. Carter is behaving like this, but from what has been published, it looks to me like Mr. Carter has been obstinate on this, not because he’s in cahoots with Mr. Benjamin, but really the opposite — because Mr. Benjamin said during the election that the police force wasn’t doing an adequate job, and at the time, Mr. Carter took issue with that fairly strongly, and probably felt personally insulted. So if I were Mr. Carter, the temptation would be that when Mr. Benjamin suggested I shouldn’t handle the investigation of his car crash, I would refuse just to say “whether you think so or not, we can handle it, thank you very much!”

    I only add this comment to note how people can come to opposite conclusions from the same data! (As far as whether I’m right or not? Who knows — it’s all just guesses, and as such, worth just about nothing).

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    @ Bob– “demand” where would he get off demanding–if he did that, people would say he was throwing his weight around. Both the police and the highway patrol determined he was not impaired–if he didn’t smell like alcohol, why give him a breathalyzer? He could also have been impaired by prescription drugs, but the roadside assessment of two sets of professionals is that he was not.

    Finally, cases get settled all the time for expedience instead of a rigorous determination of fault. If Steve’s insurer determines that it has a better outcome by settling for a lesser amount instead of paying lawyers to defend, even if they think they will win, they will make that business decision.

    You seem so prejudiced against Steve Benjamin!

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