It's no surprise, but it's in writing: Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington is opposed to council's establishing a police review board with investigative powers. Councilors and community activists spent five hours Tuesday poring over the operations of police review boards in other cities to see if Columbus should adopt a similar model. The city in 2004 established a Public Safety Advisory Commission, but it was given no authority to conduct investigations.
Wetherington, a former city police chief elected mayor in 2006, warned councilors about the limits to which they can delegate authority to an appointed board, and the possible duplication of effort that could pose. "The scope of review by such a commission would be limited to the Columbus Police Department, as neither the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office nor the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office, headed by elected officials, would fall under the purview of such a commission," the mayor wrote. "Currently, the actions of the Columbus Police Department are subject to review by the department’s Professional Standards Unit, the Chief of Police, the Director of Public Safety and the Muscogee County Grand Jury. Each one of these overseers can launch investigations into the actions of the Columbus Police Department, and the results of such investigations are public record. This power cannot be delegated to a group of non-elective, private citizens."
On Tuesday, Marshal Greg Countryman said he would submit his staff to a review commission, but Sheriff Ralph Johnson said he would not.
"I hope you will give very serious consideration to all of the ramifications and impact the creation of a Review Commission will have on our police department," Wetherington wrote to councilors. "I believe we must be very, very careful in our deliberations, and that, by appeasing a small segment of our citizens, we are careful not create an entity that will do more harm than good in the long run."
Those pushing for a commission with investigative powers include Ed DuBose of the state NAACP, Bill Madison of the local NAACP and C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon, representing the "Grassroots Unity Movement For Change."