In a move to get more Columbus police officers on the streets, two chaplains were reassigned to start patrolling but the crime-fighting idea didn’t turn out as planned.
Chaplains Roy Isasi, 58, and Donald Hall, 53, were ordered to leave their desk jobs at the Public Safety Center more than a week ago to shore up a force with 81 open positions. Police are now using reserve officers to handle duties like handing out police reports to free up fulltime officers to answer 911 calls, Assistant Chief Gil Slouchick of the Columbus Police Department said.
Isasi immediately announced plans to retire with 32 years of service, while Hall starts patrolling southeast Columbus on Saturday. Both chaplains said they love their jobs working with the public, having daily prayer with officers and helping single parents with wayward children.
“I guess they did what they had to do,” Isasi said of Police Chief Ricky Boren and Slouchick. “I thought being there, I had a shot to stay inside.”
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Isasi will officially retire on April 24 but will use his accrued leave time until that date. “No, I’m not really coming back,” he said.
Hall, who only has 10 years at the police department but 25 years with the city of Columbus, would rather continue working with public inside the building. “I mean, I don’t want to go back to the streets but I will do what I’ve got to do,” he said.
With the changes, the police department is left with no chaplain available at the 510 10th St. building.
Slouchick said chaplains are just like bomb technicians, hostage negotiators and SWAT team members. All officers serve a dual role at the department.
A year-long effort to start a reserve unit is finally coming together, allowing the changes, the assistant chief said. Retired officers who are state certified and have arrest powers are now holding part-time jobs at the department.
“We are taking full time, gun-toting police officers out from behind their desks and putting them out on the streets,” Slouchick said. “We just hadn’t started it.”
The latest efforts started after the last round of promotions in October. About 10 reserve officers are available for part-time duty. “We are trying to work our department more efficiently for the citizens of Columbus,” he said.
The assistant chief said people will start seeing reserve officers filling other police duties, like parades and other details.
“Our primary mission is to respond to the 911 calls,” he said. “Therefore, we’ve got to do everything we can to do that. It’s just another way of us managing our resources to better serve the people of Columbus, Georgia.“
On the loss of chaplain Isasi to retirement, Slouchick said officers are lost all the time through retirement and going to other places to work. A Columbus officer is eligible for full retirement after reaching age 55 and 30 years of service.
“When you are entitled, by God you can go, no hard feelings,” he said. “You’ve done what we asked. You fulfilled whatever obligation we asked you to do for 30 years. I congratulated him and wish him well.”