Mayoral challenger Colin Martin said Thursday that people in Columbus do not feel safe in their homes and unveiled a four-part plan to address crime and public safety in a presentation at his Macon Road campaign headquarters.
Martin’s plan to reduce crime includes:
* Implement community policing.
“We have excellent law enforcement officers and citizens want to see them interacting in the neighborhoods,” Martin said.
* Make sure the first offense is the last offense.
“Law enforcement officers tell me that, if we can positively redirect a first-time offender, the likelihood of re-offense decreases,” Martin said.
* Keep law enforcement officers longer than five years.
“The Columbus Police Department loses officers who have between two to five years of experience to communities that benefit from the training we pay for,” Martin said. “We need to find out why and fix it.”
* Rebuild the relationship between the mayor’s office and the public safety leadership team.
“The sheriff, the marshal, the police chief, the fire chief and the coroner play vital roles in protecting and serving out citizens,” Martin said. “As mayor and public safety director, I will build a positive and productive relationship with these leaders using the leadership skills I learned in the United States Army.”
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said the city already has in place community policing programs, which have had positive effects on areas such as Bibb City, programs in the jail to reduce recidivism and a program to attract and keep the best law enforcement officers in Columbus. But the latter isn’t easy.
“Because we recruit the best, and train the best, we are a desirable target for those looking to recruit,” Tomlinson said. “We continually look to ways we can increase our ranks.”
Tomlinson also defended her relationship with top public safety leaders.
“These are my direct reports and those relationships could not be better,” Tomlinson said. “The recent issues relating to the sheriff's budget overruns and the investigation of the marshal's allegations of racial slurs against the police chief has created fodder in this political season.”
Asked if the relationship between the mayor’s office and public safety needs rebuilding, Police Chief Ricky Boren said, “Personally, I don’t think so. We have a very good working relationship with the mayor.”
Sheriff John Darr said, “I think the relationship between myself personally and the current mayor could be better, but I don’t know if I would say it needs to be rebuilt. I think we could benefit from a better line of communication.”
Martin said he expected such a response from Tomlinson.
“I’m sure the response to this plan will be that ‘we are already doing that’ or ‘we tried that already,’” Martin said. “Well, if the current plan was working, crime would be down and public safety employee morale would be up. Neither is true.”