During Tuesday’s meeting, the Columbus City council voted to hire a consultant to examine ways the Columbus Police Department can be more effective in fighting crime.
An increase in violent crime in the city over the past year — nine murders in 2016 alone — is something that troubles us all and a recent comment by CPD Chief Oscar Lewis probably did more harm than good where the public’s confidence in our police is concerned.
During a Jan. 11 press conference, Lewis seemed to suggest a fatalistic view of the issue, saying that the current climate of crime can be attributed to biblical “end times” prophecy, implying it is beyond law enforcement’s control.
City leaders, including Mayor Robert Smith, winced at that notion. The decision to hire Columbus native K.B. Turner, chairman of the University of Memphis Criminology and Criminal Justice Department, to conduct a six-month assessment of the CPD’s policies, practices and strategies was a response to Lewis’s claim.
We believe an independent expert such as Turner — who has 33 years in law-enforcement experience in addition to his work at the university — is a good step toward providing practical solutions to a serious problem, a point Smith noted during Tuesday’s meeting.
For his part, Turner has vowed to conduct a vigorous examination, talking not only to city leaders and law enforcement officers, but to citizens throughout the city.
Often, an outside expert, free from misconceptions, alliances or assumptions that often cloud the issue, can bring the kind of clarity required to make meaningful progress.
We also believe the council’s unanimous vote to hire a consultant demonstrates our city leaders are determined to attack our crime concerns with practical, clear-headed solutions.
That the city is taking this problem seriously should inspire confidence among residents that the city is not content to shrug its shoulders and accept the current climate of crime as inevitable.
We look forward to seeing what comes out of this effort.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.