Opinion Extra

Op-ed: Lott praises Columbia for hiring Holbrook as police chief

Congratulations to the City of Columbia…you got It right!

The appointment of William “Skip” Holbrook as your police chief has proven to be the right selection. April was Chief Holbrook’s fifth anniversary as police chief. Columbia could not have made a better choice. Having been the sheriff for the past 22 years, I have seen the Columbia Police Department in the past years as being a stalled train without a conductor. Steady, dependable, honest and progressive leadership was missing.

Chief Holbrook has provided all of these qualities. He has gotten the police department moving down the track. His leadership has provided just what was needed. Changing the culture that existed has been a process, but it has moved forward. The train has left the station and some have been left behind, and some run over, by the train. However, the truly dedicated professionals at CPD have gotten on board and progress is being made every day.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott addresses the media about the previous night’s arrest of former Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott July 18, 2018, in Columbia, S.C. Scott was charged with possession of methamphetamine after members of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Fugitive Task Force and U.S. Marshals tracked a fugitive to his residence. Sean Rayford online@thestate.com

I have enjoyed working daily with Chief Holbrook. From his very first day on the job, we have built a very positive relationship that the men and women of our two agencies have seen. It starts at the top, and when our people see us working together, then they know they should too. It’s no longer a contest between agencies, unless it’s softball, basketball, or a blood drive. When we all work together, the citizens are the ones that benefit. Criminals do not know city/county lines and cops working together should not either.

Great examples of cooperation have been the Midlands Gang Task Force and Gun Violence Initiative. These important joint task forces have our deputies and police officers working together to combat the problem in the Midlands of gun violence. Our successes have been significant, but Chief Holbrook and I both know we have more work to do in that area.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook

Additionally, Chief Holbrook has obtained accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement agencies, initiated a body-worn camera program, mental health crisis training for officers and a Citizens Advisory Board. All of these programs are cornerstones of 21st century policing. Most important is Chief Holbrook’s visibility in the community. He doesn’t lead from behind a desk. He is actively involved in the community and with his officers. He truly leads by example.

The recent tragic case of the murder of USC student Samantha Josephson also demonstrated Chief Holbrook’s outstanding leadership. Under his guidance, the Columbia Police Department immediately launched a comprehensive investigation once she was reported missing. Their efforts included asking for assistance from other law enforcement agencies as well as the public. In cases like this, these two very important tools are not always used. Chief Holbrook never hesitated, and as a result the bad guy was found.

Chief Holbrook knows the value of partnerships with the community as well as with other law enforcement agencies. As the police chief for Columbia, he is constantly under a microscope, a task he understands and has managed as the professional he is.

Not only are Chief Holbrook and I professional colleagues, we are personal friends. We have a lot in common: both college baseball players, past narcotics agents, and have athletic teenage daughters. Our daily contacts are as much about our families as it is our jobs.

As police chief, Chief Holbrook will continue to move CPD forward, protect the citizens of Columbia, and be my friend.

Thank you, City of Columbia, for getting it right!

Leon Lott is the sheriff of Richland County.