January 3, 2018 11:49:34 AM
The first Columbus city council meeting of 2018 concluded Tuesday evening with a familiar face in a fresh role as chief of the Columbus Police Department.
In executive session of the hour-long meeting at the Municipal Complex, the six councilmen unanimously appointed Interim Chief Fred Shelton to permanently lead CPD.
"I think that he's qualified. I think he deserves a chance," Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones told The Dispatch after the meeting. "He's been working for CPD for a while. He was interim chief at (two) points, and personally I think if you're good enough to be the interim, you're good enough to be the chief."
Shelton begins his new job today at a $72,000 annual salary. After 90 days, his salary will increase to $74,160.
Jones said the new chief plans to meet with all CPD personnel Thursday morning to discuss his vision for the department.
Shelton, 58, who has more than 30 years of service with CPD, replaces retired chief Oscar Lewis.
Dec. 28 was Lewis' last day with CPD, after nearly 20 years with the department and 24 years in law enforcement.
Shelton first served as interim after former chief Tony Carleton abruptly resigned in the aftermath of an October 2015 officer-involved shooting that claimed the life of 26-year-old Ricky Ball. Shelton applied for the permanent chief post then, but councilmen instead hired Lewis in January 2016.
Earning the permanent chief's position, Shelton said, is a "dream come true."
"I'm honored I'll have an opportunity to maybe do all those things that when I was a patrolman I said I'd do 'if I was chief,'" Shelton told The Dispatch.
Specifically, Shelton said he wants to make CPD more "efficient, effective and proactive" by strengthening community policing and volunteer programs, as well as aggressively recruiting and retaining officers. He would like to see the force maintain between 67 and 70 officers, he said. Now CPD's roster includes 63.
"We've got a career fair planned for February with an entry level (physical training) program following in March," he said. "We want to continue to recruit officers and also have good candidates on file so we can make sure we don't drop below that minimum number."
Other personnel matters
Shelton's hiring was one of four personnel matters taken up in executive session Tuesday -- two of which involved CPD and two of which involved the city's public works department.
The council voted to terminate Patrolman Tyler Conwill for violating CPD's vehicle policy, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told The Dispatch.
According to the city's chief operations officer David Armstrong, the police officer had been in three car accidents within the last five years and accrued more than $10,000 in vehicle damages. All three accidents, one of which involved another vehicle, occurred while Conwill was driving his patrol car.
In the final two matters, councilmen suspended two public works employees for 12 days for misconduct. The Dispatch could not confirm their identities by press time.
1. Air Force Base receives best-ever inspection rating in 2017 COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Courage and class: New Hope teacher uses her breast cancer fight to impart life lessons COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Winning Market Street artist overcomes heavy odds COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Starkville works to improve cash monitoring after Parks embezzlement STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
5. Tabernacle shooting suspect nabbed in Tennessee COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY