Police Chief Fred Shelton speaks at Kiwanis Club’s weekly meeting Wednesday at Lion Hills Center. He laid out plans for a more community-minded police force. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
January 4, 2018 10:11:15 AM
At Fred Shelton's first public appearance after being appointed chief of Columbus Police Department, he laid out his vision for transforming the department into one which is as concerned with preventing crime as solving it and which will be an example for other law enforcement agencies in the state.
Shelton spoke with Kiwanis Club Wednesday at Lion Hills Center, where he called it a "life dream" to be chief. Shelton has worked with CPD more than 30 years, serving the last two as assistant chief. Columbus City Council unanimously appointed him chief at its Tuesday meeting, following the December retirement of former chief Oscar Lewis.
Shelton said his first priority will be to recruit more officers and work to retain them. The city is budgeted for 70 officers, and Shelton plans to keep the number between 67 and 70. Right now, the department has 63 officers.
Shelton added that half of the department was hired in the last two years. He plans to use that to his advantage.
"We have a young department," Shelton said. "We want to mold them and shape them and nudge them not just to be crime fighters but to be problem solvers."
He wants the less experienced officers to learn how to be a police officers through the community policing model, which Shelton plans to implement department-wide. He plans for form partnerships with organizations in the community to identify problem areas in the city and work on preventing crime there.
Shelton said he also wants to change the department's image by working more closely with the community. He suggested having police officers partnering with schools and the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus, visiting classrooms and "being a positive role model" for children.
"We're going to change our image," he said. "What you see is not what you're going to get. You're going to get something better."
Shelton said he wants officers to go "above and beyond" their duty. He used the example of an officer stopping to help a stranded motorist. Officers are required to stop and talk to the motorist, making sure the driver turns on their flashers.
"When we talk about going above and beyond, that officer stays with (the driver), sees how they can help," Shelton said.
He said he knows officers in the department who bought the driver gas in that scenario. That's the type of thing he'd like to see more often.
Shelton also talked about crime prevention, specifically regarding high recidivism rates among convicted criminals, and suggested ways of keeping first time non-violent offenders and drug addicts from having to do time that will make it harder for them to get jobs when they get out of prison.
For example, he said, someone who is repeatedly arrested for possession of cocaine is an addict who needs help. On the other hand, someone who has been arrested four times for aggravated assault needs the maximum penalty for those crimes. By getting the addict treatment, law enforcement officers can focus on getting the aggravated assault suspect in prison.
He said he wanted to work more closely with District Attorney Scott Colom's office on his pre-trial diversion program and come up with similar ways to keep non-violent offenders from having to do prison time.
"We've got a good city," he said. "We've got a great city. I'm going to do my very best to make sure it's even better.
"My ... vision is to see a policing model that's developed that somebody else will say, 'Hey, let's go down to Columbus,'" he said. "We can do it. ... We can do it together."
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