Police group endorses Columbia’s strong mayor plan

November 25, 2013 

— Some members of a police officers’ organization Monday threw their support behind next week’s strong-mayor referendum.

Officers in the Columbia chapter of Southern States Police Benevolent Association announced their endorsement in front of the Five Points site of the former club The Library, which Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott previously called a gang hangout.

A strong-mayor system “would hold Mayor Steve Benjamin accountable, and not having that accountability has led to stagnation at the very foundation of this city — public safety,” said Joseph Czeladko, president of the association, which is not a union.

Lott said he conducted an undercover operation of the club on his own, because involving the Columbia police department would have required too many levels of approval.

Benjamin took the opportunity of the endorsement to say, “When the chief of police can’t do his job without going through multiple levels of approval, the system is broken.”

Clif LeBlanc

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