Just as Columbians are settling down from the news of serious problems (including unaccounted for absentee ballots during the presidential election) within the Richland County Elections board, a preliminary investigation has leveled bombshell accusations against the very organization designated to protect and to serve – the Columbia Police Department (CPD).
The CPD has been making the headlines recently almost as much as the criminals they apprehend, and for all of the wrong reasons. This latest spate of troubles started when then Police Chief Randy Scott abruptly resigned in 2013 citing battles with posttraumatic stress.
Former Deputy Chief of Operations Ruben Santiago took over as the interim police chief. Before the dust could clear, CPD Captain Dave Navarro was fired for allegedly recording secret conversations between him and a high ranking member of the police department. Navarro fired back with a stunning allegation that Acting Police Chief Santiago had tried to involve Navarro in a so-called “black-ops” scheme to plant a stolen weapon and cocaine in the car of a Columbia city manager so that person would get fired and they could move someone else into that position. Santiago promptly turned around and sued Navarro for defamation.
Things turned so ugly so quickly that the matter was turned over for investigation to both the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Read the main findings of the 405-page investigative report in this article published yesterday by local newspaper The State. In the face of all of the allegations, a special prosecutor for the matter was quoted as saying “no charges would be filed as a result of the investigation and that he considered the case closed.” It is not known just yet why the investigation is being shut down and dismissed; but it is hoped that the corruption does not reach even higher than the CPD.
In the meantime, here are the four finalists in Columbia’s search for a new police chief. According to City Manager Teresa Wilson, they hope to have the new chief in place by mid-March.