Police association endorses strong mayor

I’m not entirely sure what I make of this release from Adam Fogle:

Police Officers endorse Strong Mayor

COLUMBIA, SC – Police officers from the local Columbia Chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolence Association (PBA) on Monday joined Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin to announce their support for the Strong Mayor form of government and encourage residents to “Vote YES” in the upcoming December 3 referendum.

“We fully support this change not only for police officers but for the safety of the people we have sworn to protect, the people of Columbia,” said PBA President Joseph Czeladko. “This change would hold Mayor Benjamin accountable and not having that accountability has led to stagnation at the very foundation of this city – public safety.”

This morning’s announcement was held in front of The Library Bar which has become a symbol of recent violence in the popular Five Points entertainment district as well as gang activity in Columbia as a whole after Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott identified it as a central hangout for gang members in the area and conducted a gang and narcotics operation in the area earlier this month.

Sheriff Lott said he did not coordinate the operation with Columbia Police because Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago did not have authority to participate without first getting permission from his multiple bosses.

“When the Sheriff has to come down to Five Points to close down a known gang hangout, the system is broken,” said Mayor Benjamin. “When the Chief of Police can’t do his job without going through multiple levels of approval, the system is broken. When the Chief can’t even hire his own command staff unless the Assistant City Manager and City Manager sign off, the system is broken”

“The system is broken here in Five Points. It’s broken in North Columbia and the Colony, It’s broken all across this city and it’s about time we did something about it.”

Voters will have that opportunity by voting “YES” for a stronger, safer city on December 3.

Here are some of the questions I have about this endorsement:

  • When your argument is that law enforcement is messed up, are the cops somebody you want endorsing your argument?
  • Is the mayor taking a position against present management in the police department (the questions he raises seem to cut both ways), and is this organization endorsing that position?
  • OK, so a significant chunk of city employees — whom you might be expected to lean toward status quo — endorse the change. But… do we want city employees, especially cops, taking such a political position?

3 thoughts on “Police association endorses strong mayor

  1. Mark Stewart

    Given the history of the past decade, I would say that this was done out of desperation.

    I would rather know that the cop on the beat wants improvement; that isn’t a bad thing. Even though it is a sad commentary on the current state of affairs with the municipality.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    The cops I talk to don’t want a strong mayor b/c they believe he will sell them down the river to the sheriff. He must have made promises…..

  3. Mark Stewart

    Kathryn, it appears to me that you are not looking at the strong mayor vote rationally if you use “he” twice like that in your comment. Sorry, that just comes across loud and clear.

    Steve Benjamin may not be a good mayor for the city, that is true. However, if you want a better one, then make the position one worth having for a better, more civic-minded candidate.

    As I remember, when this structural change was first (?) considered a few years ago the concept was to have the change take place after the next mayoral election – which was years away; giving plenty of time for challengers to step forward. But council fought off taking a vote and buried the idea of a strong mayor, repeatedly. So it was forced upon them. Now, opponents make it seem like this is some sort of coup by a despot. It is not.

    The strong mayor vote is the opportunity for the city to elect an accountable leader; one who is empowered to manage the cities services.

    I do not believe a strong mayor would outsource a city’s police department. Transferring policing to the county sheriff was an idea born out of the chaos of city council meddling in police operations and leadership. To suggest otherwise appears to me to be a distortion of facts which were clear only a couple of months ago.

    More troubling, that sort of mental distortion appears to be a core aspect of the opposition to this vote by people whom I believe would, in general, would be the kind of people who would favor this sort of model; especially given the evidence that what is now in place is broken. There just seems to be, as an outsider, something as yet unarticulated (publicly) that is causing otherwise rational people to fearfully cling to this opposition to this good governance proposal.


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