The city of Columbus is forming a committee to lead the search for a new police chief.
The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to begin the search for a new chief on Friday. The city will seek a successor for Tony Carleton, whose tenure with the city officially ends Thursday.
Carleton, who joined the department in Sept. 2013, submitted his letter of resignation on Nov. 1, in the wake of the police-involved shooting death of Ricky Ball on Oct. 16.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is investigating Ball’s death.
Mayor Robert Smith said the city will conduct a national search for the police chief position. The city will begin accepting applications Friday. The city will take applications for 30 days, until Dec. 14.
From there, a committee will review applicants and narrow the field to finalists.
The committee will consist of Smith, Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell, Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong, Ward 4 Alderman Marty Turner, Ward 6 Alderman Bill Gavin and councilman-nominated citizens from each ward.
Smith said the city has conducted finalist interviews in open and closed sessions in the past. He said he’s not opposed to holding open interviews once the committee narrows the field to a few top candidates.
“I’m open to leaving it open to the public once we narrow it down to the top three to five,” he said.
Gavin and Turner both said they hope the city will attract a chief who will be involved with the community.
“I hope we can get a police chief who will be involved and engaged in the entire community,” Turner said. “Not just specific wards that are laid out now that we’re having problems with, but the entire city — someone that can relate to all six wards and move the police department forward.”
Both councilmen also said they would take potential longevity into account. Gavin noted the city’s been through three police chiefs in his six years on the council. He said he felt the consistent turnover is bad for officer morale and the community as a whole.
“I want somebody who looks forward to being the chief for at least 10 years so we can have some kind of solidarity and build our police force up, and let them know they’re to protect and serve and actually get out into the community and get out of their cars,” Turner said.
Turner also said he would consider potential applicants’ communication skills. He noted that CPD’s communication issues have been highlighted in the aftermath of Ball’s shooting.
The council Tuesday also voted unanimously in executive session to name CPD Capt. Fred Shelton interim chief during the search for a chief.
Shelton, who has spent his 32-year law enforcement career with CPD, said he also plans to apply for the permanent position.
In the meantime, his main objective as interim chief is to try mending the relationship between CPD and the community.
“(The goal is) to heal some of the hurt that the community is feeling,” he said. “(I do that) by doing the best I can to make the department better.”
Council accepts Colom resignation
The council voted 5-0 to accept city prosecutor Scott Colom’s resignation during Tuesday’s meeting.
Colom, who first took the job in 2013, will take the oath as District Attorney in January after defeating longtime incumbent Forrest Allgood in the Nov. 3 general election.
Smith said the city will take applications for the position for 30 days. He said he hopes to have a new prosecutor hired about two weeks after the end of the application process.
He said the city will not appoint an interim prosecutor.
“Normally the court administrator will call someone, and then they’ll fill in,” Smith said.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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