Martin: The mayor is to blame for police shortage

Tomlinson: He’s ‘ill-informed’

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 24, 2014 

Columbus mayoral candidate Colin Martin today blamed Mayor Teresa Tomlinson for the city’s shortage of police officers, the ensuing stress on officers and for doing nothing to retain officers who leave the force, in a press release issued this afternoon by email.

Tomlinson responded that Martin is “ill-informed.”

“I have had many conversations with Columbus police officers, and I consistently hear that the vacancies in the department have stretched officers to the breaking point,” Martin said. “We have a strong, professional force and they deserve a mayor who will focus on making their jobs easier, not harder.”

The notion that the city does not have enough police officers to effectively patrol its streets is not true, Tomlinson said.

“I’m not sure who he’s speaking with, but I’m sure it’s not the chief or his command staff or those who oversee the deployment of our officers,” Tomlinson responded.

The city deploys officers based on intelligence gathered by the Criminal Intelligence Unit, which advises the command staff where to deploy officers in what is called “directed patrol,” Tomlinson said.

“For example, in Midtown, the minute we know something is happening there, then ample resources are put there, and that is why you saw the three very quick arrests that cleared five burglaries recently,” Tomlinson said.

Martin also used the mayor’s campaign slogan to take a shot at her performance.

“Her campaign says ‘Teresa Works’,” said Martin. “We see her working on her image, working on her campaign, and working the room at social events. What we don’t see is Mrs. Tomlinson rolling up her sleeves and doing something about the crime overtaking our city. She needs to stop quoting statistics and start solving the problem.”

Tomlinson she would be glad not to talk about statistics, but asked that in return Martin accept the fact that crime is down.

“I’m fine with not talking about statistics, but then he alludes to trends, and the trend is clearly that crime is down, and not just for the last three years, but for the first two months of this year,” Tomlinson said. “Burglaries are down from where they were the first two months of last year, and certainly from where they were in 2010 before I took office and 2009 and 2008, before I took office.

“So this correlation between my being in office and crime rising is one that he can’t make work, because the facts prove him wrong.”

One of the reasons the police department has a shortage is that officers train in Columbus then take jobs in other cities for higher pay, which Martin lays at the mayor’s feet also.

“If we made an effort to keep more officers past five years, we would not have the problem in vacancies,” Martin said. “Our city has invested the money in them and, after five years, that investment pays off.”

Tomlinson said losing trained officers is a challenge that most urban police forces face perennially, especially when smaller new cities are springing up in both north Georgia and Florida, as communities break away from urban cores.

“All urban cities are struggling with retention of trained officers because all these other cities are trying to start up their police forces, and we’re in the same boat these other cities are in.”

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