A disturbing trend is beginning to unfold involving the Columbus Police Department that should have Columbus residents uneasy about the department. Mass suspensions, terminations and retirement of police officers will soon cause the department to be understaffed, and much of the cause could very well be because of political intrusion, or supposed “micro-managing” from Mayor Robert Smith and his council automatic-yes voters.
Just in the past couple of days, Columbus Police Officer Michael Harlow resigned the department and others could follow…or be forced out. Harlow let his thoughts be known by posting them on the Columbus, Miss. Facebook Watch site. (Officer Robert Walker has also quit the department. RW)
Monday, Harlow wrote, “Hey I just wanted to let all the residents of Columbus and Lowndes County know that I resigned today from Columbus PD due to emotional stress that the leaders of the PD has placed on my family and myself. I pray for all of you for your safety and hope the crime decreases in your neighborhoods and I was honored to serve and protect all of y’all. Thanks for all the support and God bless!” Since his posting of the comment, he has received more than 35 responses by well-wishers.
In my opinion, if you’re going to start pointing fingers at the CPD, they should be directed even higher than Chief Selvain McQueen. We all know that Mayor Robert Smith has been and will continue to run both the
Columbus Police Department as well as the Public Works Department. He always has and always will, because he has at least two automatic-yes-voters on the city council… Ward 1’s Gene Taylor and Ward 4’s Fred Stewart. Those two councilmen are fine people, but the mayor can always count on their vote. He can sometimes count on Ward 2’s Joseph Mickens as well, though Mickens is a loose cannon. Mickens is all over the place because he is obviously worried about the upcoming 2013 municipal elections. He’ll face a serious challenge from former Ward 2 City Councilman Susan Mackay.
In defense of Chief Selvain McQueen… there is no doubt he’s been trying to stand his ground against Smith when it comes to department micro-managing, but that is nearly impossible when it comes to dealing with Smith. It has always been Smith’s way or the highway. Ward 5’s Kabir Karriem, Ward 3’s Charlie Box and Ward 6’s Bill Gavin are not by any means automatic, but sometimes get caught up in some of the political maneuvering by Smith (whether they realize it or not. RW).
Mayor Smith has long wanted another assistant chief and has been trying to bring in outsiders from other departments. And why not? He helps get them a job with the CPD and presto…another Smith ally in the department! Sources say that Smith wants that next assistant chief to be white in an apparent political move to appease some white voters in the upcoming 2013 municipal election. By naming a white assistant chief, Smith could argue, during the campaign, that he supported a white officer for the job. Not that race should ever matter, but we all know it does to some. And never mind that a (black) officer would be overlooked that would be much more qualified and available. Captain Fred Shelton, in particular, comes to mind!
In the meantime, there are issues with other officers within the department. Morale seems to be extremely low. Avoiding the wrath of a always-meddling mayor would likely be the main culprit.
The good officers of the Columbus Police Department deserve better.
Lowndes Deputy Randy Collins on Administrative Leave During Investigation
Lowndes County Deputy Randy Collins had been on Administrative leave by The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department until last week pending further investigation in allegations against him. Collins is engaged to April Bumgardner, who reportedly had been living with him. Bumgardner is under supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections because of a possession of methamphetamine conviction. Sheriff’s office policy prohibits personnel from living with current inmates because of obvious safety issues for other deputies, investigators and other department personnel.
Collins is a longtime deputy of the sheriff’s department. Chief Deputy Marc Miley had no comment when contacted except to say that Collins was back at work and all was fine.
Writers Note: In writing the previous story about Collins, I had reservations. I’ve been knowing Collins since the early 80’s before he was with the sheriff’s department. Randy is a fine guy and from all accounts, a very good deputy sheriff. Bumgardner is paying her debt to society as well. Personally, I hope the best for both of these individuals.
That said, I and The Columbus Packet have an obligation to inform our readers of news. We take no delight in reporting these types of matters. But sometimes we have to report things that are controversial or might even involve our friends or family members. That doesn’t matter. We don’t take that obligation lightly. It must be done.
Here’s hoping that each of you find peace, harmony and happiness during the upcoming Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Ron Williams is an opinion columnist at the Packet. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Packet.
He can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com