Columbus is bringing in a consultant to work with its police department.
The city council voted unanimously to hire K.B. Turner of Turner Enterprises at the conclusion of its Tuesday meeting. The vote occurred in open session after the council finished its executive session portion of the meeting.
Mayor Robert Smith said he recommended hiring Turner, who works as chairman for the University of Memphis Criminology and Criminal Justice Department, partially in response to comments Police Chief Oscar Lewis made at a Jan. 11 press conference.
During the press conference, Lewis pointed at prophecy related to the biblical end times in response to a Dispatch reporter’s question on rising crime in the city.
“Prophecy is being fulfilled,” Lewis said at the press conference. “…The end times are here, and things are going to get pretty bad. We’re doing everything that we can to try to combat these things. There are things we can control and things we can’t control.”
Smith said he wants citizens to know city leaders are treating the crime problems by seeking serious, tangible solutions.
“From the mayor and the council’s standpoint, we think it’s very incumbent upon the mayor and the council, the chief and the police department to reassure citizens of the City of Columbus that there is hope concerning crime and we are serious concerning crime,” Smith said.
The city will pay Turner $19,000 for six months of work.
Smith said he recommended Turner to the council Tuesday evening after discussing it extensively with Lewis that morning.
“I think we need a new set of eyes — someone from law enforcement to come in (who) has done this before with other departments and just evaluate our department, analyze our department, set up meetings with special interest groups across the city, meet with pastors across the city, look at our (standard operating procedure) and just make recommendations to the chief and his department,” he said.
Turner could also meet with the entire police department, Smith said, to glean what suggestions and ideas officers might have.
Turner, a Columbus native, has worked at the University of Memphis for 14 years and has been a sworn officer for about 33 years. He’s worked with other police departments in the state, including the Bolivar County Sheriff’s Department, De Soto County Sheriff’s Department, the Mississippi Delta Community College Law Enforcement Academy and Tunica County Sheriff’s Department. Turner has also worked with departments in Tennessee and other states.
When contacted by The Dispatch on Tuesday, Turner said he hopes to assess CPD’s specific challenges once he begins working with the department. However, he said some things are consistent across departments.
“Each agency has its own challenges,” he said. “One thing that remains constant, regardless of where I go, is that I remind the sheriff, police chief, or whatever official is in charge that we focus on what can we do that will be the best for our citizens. We’re not going to entertain personalities or allow personalities to be a distraction.
“Regardless of where you are, I think we all want the same thing for our agencies, and that is to provide effective service and be responsive to the needs of our citizens,” Turner added. “That’s true for a one-man department or one with 40,000 officers, like New York Police Department.”
Turner noted he has a particular interest in helping Columbus because it is his hometown.
Smith said Turner should be in later this week, and he hopes to get the consultant working with CPD “as soon as possible.”
He said he thinks it’s imperative for the city to take whatever steps are necessary to help strengthen the police department.
“It’s just a new idea, and we owe it to the citizens,” he said.
Lewis left the municipal courtroom immediately after the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting. He declined to comment on the matter during a returned call on Wednesday morning before press time.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.