Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren, Mayor Jim Wetherington, three local sheriffs and the Fraternal Order of Police used Monday afternoon to thank Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for his role in saving the West Georgia Regional Crime Lab.
“Lt. Gov. Cagle is the one who stood in the gap for law enforcement and the citizens of this community to make sure this lab remained open,” Wetherington said.
For the last two years, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has targeted the crime lab, which processes evidence for more than 20 law enforcement agencies throughout West Georgia, for closure.
It was weeks from closure when Cagle, from his role as the president of the state Senate, led an effort to keep the lab open.
“This community made the case,” Cagle said. “It was easy for me to stand in the gap. You have to have facilities like this to get the kind of evidence we need to put law breakers behind bars.”
The city of Columbus committed $67,000 in Local Option Sales Tax money to help fund the lab as the state battles historic budget shortfalls. That money has since been returned to the city and the lab is being completely funded by the state.
Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr, Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley, Taylor County Sheriff Jeff Watson and Georgia FOP vice president Randy Robertson joined the chorus praising Cagle, a Republican who is in a re-election fight against Democratic nominee Carol Porter. A couple of dozen local law enforcement officers were on hand to thank Cagle.
“That man says what he means and I promise you he means what he says,” Watson said.
If the lab had closed, local agencies would have been forced to take evidence to Macon or Atlanta for processing.
Boren said it had been a long fight to keep the lab open.
“We’re standing in front of it today and that door is unlocked,” the chief said.
Before leaving, Robertson announced that the Georgia FOP chapter was endorsing Cagle.
“We need great leaders behind us,” Robertson said.