Interim chief makes his case to be next full-time Columbus Police Chief

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Assistant Chief Doran Johnson took over as acting chief of the Columbus Police Department on August 15.

Since then, the interim chief says there has been plenty to keep him busy since assuming the new role. But he says it’s one he was excited to take on.

In fact, Chief Johnson says he would like to become CPD’s next full-time chief of police.

Chief Johnson says he remembers what it was like when the Columbus Police Department was at its best.

“We were like running 80-strong (with officers), we had a lot of programs going on throughout the community, we were well-connected to the community,” he says.

Now, he says the department is down to a total of about 36 officers, including roughly 25 patrol officers. But he believes he has what it takes to change that.

“I do believe that I am the right person (for the job),” Chief Johnson says. “But in believing that, my job here, even as interim (chief), is just to make sure I’m doing the job. Make sure I keep this police department running and moving in the right direction.”

Chief Johnson was with the Columbus Police Department from 1988 to 2000. He returned in 2020 to take over as assistant chief.

“One of my reasons for coming back to the police department was the fact that I knew that we had a young police department, a young force that needed some experience and some guidance,” he says.

Chief Johnson says he is actively working with the city to address department issues like low pay and outdated equipment.

“We just worked with him on the budget process, where we are looking at keeping our count of police officers to 55 so that we can increase salaries,” says Mayor Keith Gaskin.

“Competing for pay with other law enforcement officers, competing for good working conditions with good equipment and good cars and those kinds of things,” Chief Johnson said as he listed various factors behind the low CPD numbers.

They are also discussing other strategies to help recruit more experienced police officers.

“If you’ve transferred over, made a lateral (move) to the Columbus Police Department, your experience doesn’t really lateral with you,” Chief Johnson says. “You almost have to start over from square one.”

A 10-person search committee for the city of Columbus is in the process of selecting candidates for the next chief.

“I think (Chief Johnson) has been very clear that he is interested in applying for the full-time position,” Mayor Gaskin says.

Committee members say they’re looking for someone with experience and longevity. With more than 30 years in law enforcement, Chief Johnson says he has plenty of both.

“This is home, this is where I will be and will retire and grow old and raise my family,” he says. “Even when I leave the police department, I want to make sure…that we still have the manpower, the officers to make sure that we’re protecting and serving the city of Columbus. Because this is where I’m going to be.”

Mayor Gaskin says he would like to select a new police chief before the end of 2022.

If they do end up going in a different direction, Chief Johnson says he has not made a decision yet on whether or not to remain with the force.

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