The City of Columbia has formally begun its latest search for a permanent police chief. But this time, the city has changed the minimum requirement to qualify as a candidate.
That might be a problem for the man now running the department. This could be a significant obstacle for Interim Chief Ruben Santiago. He has made no secret about wanting to win the permanent job as chief. But city officials have made it more difficult for Santiago to qualify.
Before Tandy Carter took over as Chief of the Columbia Police Department in 2008, he had to meet a specific requirement: 10 years minimum in a progressively responsible command position with a medium to large law enforcement organization.
Carter's tenure fell apart two years later when he was fired by the city manager in a dispute over his refusal to hand over the investigation of the car accident involving newly elected Mayor Steve Benjamin.
The city eventually turned to Richland County's Randy Scott.
But when Scott hired on with the city in 2010, that minimum command experience requirement had been dropped to five years. And then, with Scott's sudden departure this spring, city leaders quietly worked to raise the minimum experience level again.
Last week, the city launched the chief search with a new requirement of 8 years in a command job. That figure was a compromise after at least one council member pushed for a 15-year minimum.
Councilman Moe Baddourah heads the council's public safety committee.
"We tried to raise it to 10 years, but we felt like 10 years might not be able to find some good, qualified people to come apply with the city, so we dropped it down to 8 years of experience," said Baddourah.
So why did the city settle on 8 years?
"We just thought we didn't have the market to bring people in," said Baddourah. "We wanted to bring a lot more people interested in applying for the position."
As for Santiago, he took his first command job in June 2010 at the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
We tried to contact Santiago, but were not able to do so. The department's spokeswoman says Santiago is applying for the job. He will do so with about six and a half years of command experience.
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