Columbia opens search for new police chief

nophillips@thestate.comNovember 12, 2013 

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com Buy Photo

  • POLICE CHIEF JOB

    Term: Regular Full-Time

    Pay: $89,246 - $115,869/annually

    Nature of Work: The purpose of this position is to administer and oversee all operations of the Police Department for the City of Columbia; to supervise division commanders and other staff to ensure that law and order are maintained, laws and ordinances enforced, and that all departmental operations are properly maintained and implemented; to ensure the maintenance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the department and the community it serves, and to perform related law enforcement, supervisory and administrative work as required. This class researches and formulates long-range goals for the organization, develops policy and position papers, and negotiates with chief administrative officers and/or elected officials. This position reports to the City Manager.

    Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in Public or Business Administration, Political or Police Science with major course work in Criminal Justice or closely related field; Master’s degree strongly preferred with eight (8) years work experience in a progressively responsible command experience as a Captain, Major, Assistant or Deputy Chief or Chief within a medium to large law enforcement metropolitan police department.

    Special Requirements: Must possess and maintain a valid SC Class “D” Driver’s License and have an acceptable driving record. Must possess and maintain S.C. Law Enforcement Officer and Firearms Certifications. Preference may be given to applicants who have completed a nationally recognized Police Executive Development Program, Southern Police Institute, FBI Academy, etc. Must have knowledge of personal computer equipment with skill in the use of Microsoft Office preferred, utilizing Outlook and all associated software programs preferred. Must have excellent supervisory, organizational and interpersonal skills and be able to express ideas clearly and concisely both orally and in writing. Must exemplify the highest ethical standards and have demonstrated these standards throughout the candidate’s career. Must reside within corporate limits of the City of Columbia within a reasonable period of time following date of hire or promotion.

The city has launched a national search for a new police chief after more than six months of having the embattled department run by an interim leader.

City Manager Teresa Wilson said she is moving forward even though a corruption investigation into Interim Chief Ruben Santiago and one of his former captains is ongoing.

A few months ago, Wilson had said she would wait for the investigation to conclude after City Council members expressed concern over finding quality candidates with such a cloud hanging over the department.

“Because I don’t have any indication of when it will be complete I decided to move forward,” Wilson said Tuesday. “I cannot continue to manage the city and expect our city, the public and the officers to not have a clear direction of where the leadership is going to be.”

The hiring process will include input from other law enforcement, business leaders, neighborhood association members and representatives from hospitality districts. Wilson expects to have a new chief in place by March.

Qualified applicants have until Dec. 11 to apply for the job, which will pay $89,246 to $115,869 annually, according to the job posting on the city’s website.

Hiring a chief will be one of the most important decisions in Wilsons’s tenure as city manager as she tries to bring stability to a department that has had more than its share of controversy. The department has 460 employees, including 385 officers.

The next chief will become the eighth person to run the department since 2007.

Santiago has been in charge since May, after former chief Randy Scott took an unexplained leave of absence and then returned to hold a tearful, rambling press conference to say he was resigning because of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In July, the corruption investigation was launched after former Capt. David Navarro accused Santiago of asking him to take drugs and guns from a crime scene so they could be planted in an assistant city manager’s car. Navarro also is under investigation after Santiago accused him of shredding documents without permission and possibly misappropriating Columbia Police Foundation money.

Most recently, the police department has been criticized for its policing in Five Points, the popular nightlife area that has been plagued by violence. Criticism reached a tipping point in October when 18-year-old USC freshman was paralyzed after being hit by a stray bullet.

The shooting led Sheriff Leon Lott to send deputies into Five Points for an unannounced operation and then hold a press conference to urge the city to follow his tactics.

Despite the turmoil, Wilson said she expects qualified applicants to apply for the job.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of high profile issues but our officers are solving the cases,” she said. “I would hope the candidates and applicants would focus on the positive things going on in this department.”

Another potential issue for any future police chief is the upcoming referendum on a strong mayor form of government. If voters approve it, then the mayor would be the chief’s boss – not Wilson – come July 1.

For years, department insiders have complained that the chief’s job is made even more difficult by the multiple bosses he serves. In Columbia, the chief not only reports to an assistant city manager and city manager but is expected to be responsive to the seven City Council members as well as neighborhood and business association leaders.

Wilson said she is looking for a chief who has the firmness to navigate the city’s political waters while possessing the people skills necessary to relate to the public. The community’s strong interest in its police department should not deter applicants, she said.

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