Category Archives: Public Safety

Chamber backs plan for Lott to run CPD, even while council gives it a cold shoulder

Most of city council has thoroughly dissed Cameron Runyan’s attempt to revive the idea of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott taking over the Columbia Police Department.

But the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is applauding. It sent out this statement yesterday:

“The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce fully endorses Columbia City Council member Cameron Runyan’s plan to contract Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott to manage the City of Columbia’s police department. Public safety, economic development and job creation are top priorities of the Chamber and our business community. Our neighbors and our business owners deserve the right to feel safe in their homes, on their streets and in our business districts. Public safety is critical to moving our city from good to great to achieve status as a world-class city.

We firmly believe Sheriff Lott, based on his past performance, has the credibility and proven results to bring about positive changes in the Columbia Police Department, which will benefit our entire community. Sheriff Lott is a well respected leader throughout Columbia, the state and law enforcement. We encourage our city council members to embrace this plan and help make it a reality.”

–  Holt Chetwood | Chair, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

It’s a bit surprising to me that council so categorically rejects the idea of the popular and competent Lott taking over the department, given that the CPD has in the last few years gone way beyond the point that the word “troubled” adequately described just how fouled up it is at the top. The same proposal lost by only one vote in council in 2010.

But it’s habit now with the council majority, I guess. If it comes from the Benjamin camp, and has business support, and might change the status quo in a way that makes sense, they’re against it.

‘Stand Your Ground’ asserted in high school stabbing

Don’t know whether you’ve seen this yet today:

LEXINGTON, SC — An attorney for the 18-year-old former Lexington High School student accused of stabbing to death a student at a rival school said Thursday his client will seek to invoke South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law and not face murder charges.

At a bond hearing Thursday morning before Circuit Judge William Keesley, attorney Todd Rutherford said Kierin Dennis was in “fear for his life” and a “victim” rather than the aggressor in the death of Dutch Fork High School senior Da’Von Capers on Feb. 17 following a tension-filled high school basketball game between their two schools….

You may have last seen Rep. Rutherford in court action defending Rep. Ted Vick against a DUI charge, saying that the reason his client was walking so unsteadily was that he had a rock in his shoe. That made The Daily Mail. (OK, that’s the second time today the Mail has been invoked on this blog. It’s a steady job, but I want to be a paperback writer…)

Open Thread for Tuesday, February 18, 2014

This promises to be another busy day on my end, so I thought one of these would be in order.

Possible topics, both on the metro front:

  1. New police chiefOur own Kathryn was quoted in the paper as saying, in advocating for Rub.en Santiago, “If you’ve got a horse that’s winning the race, why do you want to change horses?” Meanwhile, some want to scrap the whole process, just as the five finalists prepare to go before the public.
  2. Bull Street/ballpark — There’s a lot going on with regard to that this week as well. Here’s a story from The State today.

Of course, y’all can talk about whatever. Just be civil…

Barry’s thoughts on police chief candidates

A couple of days ago, our own Barry emailed me his thoughts about the finalists for the job of Columbia police chief. I just now noticed that he said “yes” to my request for permission to post his observations here. He based these thoughts on this story from WIS:

Tony Fisher looks like a good choice- but he’s 64 years old and he retired last year after a long career in Spartanburg.   Not sure someone that age needs to be brought in to head up a headache of a job in Columbia.

William Holbrook –   Columbia is almost 3 times bigger than Huntington, West Virginia.   Huntington is 90% white.  Columbia is 51% per 2012 estimated census data.  Doesn’t look like a great fit.

Bryan Norwood – resigned as Richmond Police Chief amid pressure. For some reason, he also personally supervised the probation conditions of R & B Singer Chris Brown. (Very odd that a police chief would do that – and folks were very critical of it).      We really don’t need someone that just had to quit somewhere else because of problems.

Charles Rapp-  very impressive credentials (Baltimore police department veteran, hostage negotition team leader, training academy director, led 2 precincts, has a masters from Johns Hopkins) – but same thing as Tony Fisher- looks like someone that would only be able to serve a few years due to his age- which I couldn’t find.

Gregory Reese –  Air Force experience- but hasn’t led a city department.  He led a large group  – 1600 people- but I see not having led a city department as something that would hurt him.

For further info, here’s the story that ran in The State.

Driving while stoned is a worse idea than ever


Bart, in response to Bud recently saying that “Pot is no more dangerous than coffee,” shares this:

TUESDAY, Feb. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The legalization of marijuana is an idea that is gaining momentum in the United States, but there may be a dark side to pot becoming more commonplace, a new study suggests.

Fatal crashes involving marijuana use tripled during the previous decade, fueling some of the overall increase in drugged-driving traffic deaths, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health report.

“Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,” said co-author Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. “If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving.”…


Be on the lookout for this guy (UPDATE: They caught him)


The following comes from the Oconee County Sheriff’s department:

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)——————————-Jason Mark Carter, who was committed and found incompetent to stand trial in the 2006 murder of his mother and stepfather, has escaped from a mental health facility in Columbia.

Carter, who is 39 years old, is a white male, 5’10”, 165 pounds with hazel eyes and brown hair. He was last seen wearing a black coat with a black and white sweater underneath and brown cargo pants. He may be traveling in a stolen 1991 White Chevy van with a tag of SG61580 with the number 244 on the bumper. The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is unsure of the method of escape.

On March 27th, 2006, deputies responded to 419 Meldau Road in Seneca in response to a welfare check. During their search, officers found the bodies of Kevin and Debra Ann Perkins inside a locked room in the basement with Carter inside with the victims.

If you come in contact with Jason Mark Carter, use extreme caution and report any sightings to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office at 864-638-4111, Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC or your local law enforcement agency.

Choose Your Ride: A blunt public safety announcement


On my way in to work this morning, at the junction of Sunset Boulevard and Meeting Street, just before the Gervais Street bridge, I thought I saw a speed trap.

Then, just before I drove past, I noticed the sign, and the cab.

Y’all have a good, safe time tonight. Maybe I’ll see you at the Famously Hot New Year’s celebration at Gervais and Main.


No hard feelings between Clowney, cops


Not sure what to make of this, beyond concluding that Jadeveon Clowney is a good-natured young man.

He Tweeted out the above picture today with the words:

We in here me and my boys lol

I’m not sure that being charged with going 110 mph is an LOL matter, but that’s probably because I’m a sour-natured, buzz-killing alter cocker.

Clowney charged with going 84 mph this time

Hey, it’s an improvement over going 110 (allegedly), but still:

Thursday morning, University of South Carolina defensive football star Javedeon Clowney got another traffic ticket for speeding.

This time, an officer from the Columbia police department stopped Clowney and charged him with going 84 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone.

The stop took place around 10:30 a.m. Thursday on the outskirts of Columbia’s downtown, where I-26 meets I-126, according to a traffic citation obtained by The State newspaper. The citation was released through official police channels at the paper’s request….

Clowney charged with going 110 mph. In an unrelated development, Bauer considers running again

First, we hear that Andre Bauer is thinking again about running for governor, this time as a third-party candidate (this is not what the UnParty had in mind!).

Now, we see USC’s football star is making like the (except that, unlike Mr. Bauer, he was charged):

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was cited by the South Carolina Highway Patrol for speeding Saturday for driving 40 miles per hour over the posted speed limit,according to WIS-TV.

Clowney, according to the report, was going 110 miles per hour in a Chrysler 300 when he was pulled over on Interstate 77 Saturday night around 7:30 p.m. The highway’s listed speed limit is 70 miles per hour.

Officials say he was immediately ticketed and that no other citations were issued in the incident….

Nor, apparently, was he arrested at the scene.


Firefighters join cops in backing strong-mayor reform

A group of neighborhood and community leaders gather to endorse strong-mayor on Monday.

A group of neighborhood and community leaders gather to endorse strong-mayor on Monday.

This just in from Adam Fogle with the strong-mayor campaign:

Columbia Firefighter’s Association backs Yes Vote on Strong Mayor

COLUMBIA, SC — The Columbia Firefighter’s Association announced on Tuesday that they are urging Columbia residents to vote yes for modern strong mayor form of government that will give the Mayor Columbia the authority needed to ensure public safety is a top priority.

Anthony Holloway, President of the Columbia Firefighters Association, explained his organization’s decision to back the strong mayor system:

Our city is at a crossroads and we have a tremendous decision to make today: change or more of the same.  We know first hand that the present system is holding our first responders back.  That’s why we hope Columbia voters will vote yes for a safer city and a more accountable government.

The fire service has been struggling with an attrition problem for years — a problem that is only getting worse.  Despite the genuine efforts of many in the fire department and the city government, most days there are fire trucks that are under-staffed or taken out of service simply because we don’t have enough firefighters on staff.

The attrition issue and many other concerns facing our city’s firefighters could have been resolved by now if the mayor had the authority to act. But under the present system, important decisions often get deferred and no one is held responsible for the consequences. A strong mayor system would fix that.

Mayor Benjamin is standing up and saying “I will be responsible.” That is a bold move that we fully support.

# # #

And so the firefighters join the Columbia Chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolence Association in favoring reform.


The NYT on Inez Tenenbaum’s legacy at CPSC

As you may know already, Inez Tenenbaum is returning home after several years running the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The NYT did this piece on her legacy at the agency:

By the end of her four-year term, which came to a close on Friday, she can say that she has presided over a significant increase of the agency’s powers. And Ms. Tenenbaum, 62, has not been shy about using them. The agency recently leveled its highest fine ever — $3.9 million — against Ross, the discount retailer, because it continued to sell what the commission said was defective children’s clothing, even after warnings from the agency.Inez_Tenenbaum

She and the safety commission also waded into one of the most contentious topics in the sports world: protecting football players from head injuries. The result was the Youth Football Brain Safety initiative, which called for the replacement of youth league helmets with safer models paid for by the National Football League, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the N.F.L. Players Association….

For the Youth Football Brain Safety initiative, the N.C.A.A., the N.F.L. and the players association kicked in a total of $1 million to pay for the helmet replacements. “The support of Chairman Tenenbaum and the C.P.S.C. played an important role in making our helmet replacement initiative a reality,” Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, said in a statement. “We really appreciated her personal involvement and the agency’s in the work to make our game better and safer.”

Yet the commission under Ms. Tenenbaum’s leadership has not been exempt from criticism. Some of the biggest complaints followed the decision by agency lawyers to hold Craig Zucker, the chief executive of the company that made Buckyballs, liable for the recall of the magnetic children’s toy, even after the company was dissolved. Manufacturers have argued that holding an individual responsible for a widespread, and expensive, recall sets a disturbing example, and would discourage companies from being open in their dealings with regulatory bodies.

Ms. Tenenbaum said she could not comment on the case because it was continuing…

And here’s a link to John Monk’s story about her tenure in The State today.

Police throw book at car-on-roof suspect

You may have heard about the car found on the roof of a house in Forest Acres.

Here’s more on the subject:

Police have arrested a known gang member whose vehicle landed on the roof of a Forest Acres home following a police chase early Saturday morning.

Antwon Ashley, 31, has been charged with headlights required, reckless driving, hit and run property damage over $10,000, failure to stop for blue lights, trafficking crack cocaine, distribution within the proximity of a school, littering and opposing law enforcement….

Wow. Busy night. Allegedly.

Unfortunately, no one has reported HOW the car got on top of the house. Which is the one thing we want to know, right?

Police say they don’t know.

Nathan Ballentine proposes solution for violent crime in Columbia: Sheriff Leon Lott

At the risk of seeming even more like a guy who thinks of himself as the Editorial Page Editor in Exile, allow me to call your attention to a second good piece on the opinion pages of The State today.

You should read Rep. Nathan Ballentine’s piece promoting Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott as the guy who can lead Columbia to solutions in dealing with its violent crime problem. An excerpt:

The answer to Columbia’s violent crime isn’t what, but who

Recently, the Midlands has seen a dramatic rise in gang violence and senseless shootings. Business leaders, elected officials, USC’s administration and many others have sought answers to the big question: What can we do to stop it? College students, victims’ groups and law enforcement officials all have met and pondered the same question: How can we combat violent crime?

Sheriff Leon Lott

Sheriff Leon Lott

There may not be just one answer, but I know one man who has the experience and sheer determination to find all the answers and get the job done here in Columbia: Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

In the past, Columbia City Council has been reluctant to cede power to Sheriff Lott, apparently because of small turf battles and out of fear that council members might lose some control over the law enforcement they currently manage….

For many of us, the answer is clear: have Sheriff Lott take over control of city law enforcement efforts and allocate resources where he knows they will best be utilized, city or county. To do anything less is simply sanctioning further violence throughout Columbia.

Leon Lott is a unique individual who transcends politics and has a record of achievement…

Some may be surprised to see a conservative Republican lawmaker — one of Gov. Nikki Haley’s oldest and best friends in the House — praising a Democratic sheriff to the skies. Such people don’t know Nathan Ballentine very well. He will work with anyone, D or R, whom he sees as able to get the job done.

Others, unfortunately, will dismiss this as a white legislator (a Republican, no less — and from Chapin!) promoting a white lawman to ride in and show a town with a black mayor, black city manager and a series of minority police chiefs how to make Five Points safe for white college kids. Not that anyone will put it quite that bluntly, but there may be such a reaction, on the part of some, to that effect.

People who react that way will not be reassured by Nathan pointing out that Sheriff Lott was way out ahead of the city in recognizing the community’s gang problem, and doing something about it. That has long been a touchy subject along the demographic fault line in Columbia, with (and yes, I’m deliberately oversimplifying to make a point) white folks saying of course there’s a gang problem, and black folks saying, you white people see a “gang” wherever two or more young, black males congregate.

Setting race aside, some will react at the “great man theory” that underlies the Ballentine piece — the idea that this sheriff, this man, is the one to do the job. What happens, they’ll say, when Lott is no longer sheriff?

In other words, the barrier to communication runs a little deeper than “small turf battles.” Although that’s a part of it, too. There are multiple reasons why this hasn’t happened already.

There’s an opportunity here. Mayor Steve Benjamin has just gotten re-elected by a strong margin, and he has floated the idea of Lott taking over before. With the strong-mayor vote coming up the potential for change is in the air — although it’s tough to say whether the Lott idea has a better or a worse chance in light of that. (Better if it makes people more willing to give the major more power, worse if they say, if a strong mayor doesn’t run the police department, what’s the point?)

If he takes this up again, Benjamin has the political chops and stature to override a lot (if not all) of the gut-level objections out there, as well as the bureaucratic ones.

Is it doable? I don’t know. But letting the sheriff elected to serve the whole county actually run law enforcement for the whole county is an idea that deserves a full and fair hearing.

Hey, that’s Duncan MacRae of YESTERDAY’S, y’all…

duncan yesterdays

Thought it was sort of odd that showed my old friend Duncan MacRae in a montage of mugs of people who spoke out about violence in Five Points last night, but didn’t identify him beyond his name — although other speakers were identified by their roles in the district.

For the record, Duncan, who was a Marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam, is one of the founders and co-owners of Yesterday’s, my very favorite Five Points spot.

Duncan has always been deeply involved in seeking solutions to challenges faced by the district. I identify him as much with Five Points as I do Debbie McDaniel (also pictured) and Jack Van Loan.

I’d like to know what Duncan had to say. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quoted in the story. Guess I’ll have to go by and see him to find out.

Anyway, now you know who that is, in case you didn’t already…

Benjamin calls ‘Urgent Community Meeting on Crime Control’

This just in from Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin:

Urgent Community Meeting on Crime Control

Dear ,

I’m sure you know an innocent young woman was shot early Sunday morning while waiting for a taxi in the Five Points area — the victim of a stray bullet fired by a career criminal.
As the father of two girls, I was heartbroken and outraged by this senseless act of violence. Our prayers are with the young victim and her family. And our minds must now be focused on what more we can do to make the Five Points area and our entire City safer.
Fortunately, the new video cameras we recently installed in the Five Points area helped our City police quickly identify the suspect. But even more aggressive prevention is needed.
We’ve endured far too many of these tragedies in Columbia. A precious 4-year-old girl injured in a gang shooting while watching television in her living room. A hard-working mother of four killed while providing for her family at a local bakery. These are painful reminders of the battle we are fighting in every corner of our city to get repeat violent offenders off our streets.
For that reason, I am inviting you and all our neighbors to attend a special community meeting this Wednesday, October 16, at 5:30pm at the Columbia Police Department’s PACE Team Headquarters (Food Lion Parking Lot), 1001 Harden Street, to talk about new ideas and solutions to make our City safer and more secure.
We are making progress in crime control. We now have a fully funded police department, we’ve restored first responder budget cuts and we’ve cut overall crime rates including violent crimes. To brief you, here is a list of several reforms I’ve been working on as Mayor. For example, we’ve called for…
  • A citywide crackdown on gang violence with new resources for our Anti-Gang Task Force.
  • A campaign to get illegal guns off of the streets.
  • Aggressive prosecution of violent crimes to the full extent of the law, while ending the revolving door that puts thugs back on our streets to strike again.
  • A new policy to keep politicians away from crime scenes, keep politics out of law enforcement and ensure public trust in our police department.
Clearly, we need to do more. That’s why we need to hear your ideas, comments and suggestions for ways to do better. Most of all, we all need to stand together and work together as one city–to make Columbia safer for all of our families to live, work and play.
Please join us Wednesday at five-thirty in the afternoon at the CPD PACE Team HQ at 1001 Harden St. I look forward to seeing you.
In service,
Mayor, City of Columbia
P.S. — If you can’t make the meeting on Wednesday and have something you would like to share, please email me at

I couldn’t watch Werner Herzog’s anti-texting-and-driving video; it made my heart hurt too much

At the behest of AT&T, German filmmaker Werner Herzog made a half-hour video that shows the real-life human tragedies that texting while driving causes.

I couldn’t get through the very first story. It made my heart hurt too much. From the very first second that I saw that young woman holding her fingers out to her side, I knew that there was supposed to be a small child clinging to them, and that the child was gone.

It’s brutal. But as an updated, higher-quality film of the sort they made driver’s-ed students watch back in my day, it’s got to be effective. I hope.

Randy Scott back as police chief

Thought I’d go ahead and pass this on, since some of y’all expressed a lot of interest in the story earlier:

Randy Scott has been rehired as Columbia’s police chief.

Scott retired Jan. 1 to take advantage of changes in the state’s retirement system. He had to stay retired for 15 days, then reapply for his job under the state’s retirement rules.

He will return to work Wednesday, which is the first day he is eligible to return to work.

The city said Scott was one of two applicants for the job, according to a news release, though it did not say who the other applicant was. The chief’s vacancy was posted on a city website.

Scott will be paid $112,200, the same salary he earned prior to his retirement.

That was from The State. WLTX has much the same story, with one or two different details.

Personally, I’m glad the chief is back on the job, as bizarre as the whole retiring and getting rehired thing is. And I look forward to seeing a more complete story, answering questions not addressed above.

I know there are other opinions out there…

A better version of the Second Amendment

Well, I just learned something from Wikipedia I didn’t know before, but should have known — given all that time I spent studying that period in college.

I’ve always found the punctuation (and capitalization, but hey, it was the 18th century) of the Second Amendment problematic to the point that it was little better than gibberish. That’s because I was looking at the version that Congress passed:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That comma after “Militia” just destroyed any clear meaning that may have been intended.

But now I’ve seen the version that was ratified by the states and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson in his capacity as secretary of state:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Much better. It actually seems to have been composed by someone whose first language is English. And it certainly makes the role of the militia in the rationale of amendment much clearer.

Speaking of militias… I have another post I want to write on that subject. I’ll see if I can get to it before I need to leave this evening…

Obama: ‘If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.’

On a previous post, Phillip said that he likes Bill Maher (or at least excuses him) because “I find myself agreeing with him about 99% of the time.” I made it fairly clear that I do not.

But there are people who I find myself agreeing with to a degree that it is remarkable — a rare experience for me, since I reject the orthodoxies of left and right (which enable the people who do adhere to them to find themselves agreeing with certain people a lot). A good example would be Tony Blair. When he expresses his reasoning behind a position, I am struck by how much it is just like what I would say — or wish I were clever enough to say.

I have a similar experience with President Obama. There are a lot of things I disagree with him on, rather vehemently in some cases. But then he expresses himself on an issue in a way that strikes me as just right, and I am deeply impressed. (Needless to say, on these occasions he’s being about as different from Bill Maher as any one person can be.)

Today was such an instance, when the president carefully weighed in on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. I haven’t commented on it myself because I have thought that everyone else was commenting in such a facile manner — generalizing the incident to fit their own political and social predilections — and I couldn’t find a way to grab ahold of the matter in a way I found meaningful.

But then the president said this:

“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” Mr. Obama said. “All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen.”…

“Obviously, this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through,” Mr. Obama said, his face grim. “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.”…

“You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Mr. Obama said, pausing for a moment. “I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

Normally, I tend to react against such a personal, emotional response. But in this case, it was exactly right, and the president was wise to recognize it.

To me, this isn’t some microcosm of racial injustice or gun culture gone wild or any other generalization. This is a case — as near as I can tell, and my knowledge of the case is limited — of a confused, emotional, panicky, cowardly man with a gun in his hand pulling the trigger and causing a deep, personal, specific tragedy.

Yes, the president made a genetic, racial observation in saying that his theoretical son would look like the victim in this case. But the more important part of it is that he appeals to “every parent in America” to look at this situation AS parents, rather than as participants in a political debate. It says to whites who may want to recoil and get indignant at seeing, for instance, Al Sharpton exploit yet another tragedy, Set that aside. Look at the personal tragedy. Think of your own kids. That’s what I’m doing.

That’s the wisest possible thing he could have said.

If there’s anything else useful to say about this case, that is the best starting point.