Top Candidate for Police Chief Chosen, Acting Chief Speaks

City officials to reveal candidate's identity next week


By Monique Williams

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) -- City of Columbia officials confirm a top police chief candidate has been chosen. However, his identity is not scheduled to be revealed until next week's formal announcement. The city manager has indicated today that she has identified a top candidate; however, no final decision or offer of employment has been made. City officials say for that reason, it would be premature to identify the candidate.

In the meantime, ABC Columbia News reached out to both the acting chief and former interim chief to find out what's next for them.

Acting Columbia police chief Melron Kelly says his first day at headquarters was like any other day on the job, making sure some 385 police officers continue to do theirs.

"Nothing has changed. We are still here 24/7," said Kelly.

Kelly has known only local law enforcement, having been involved at CPD since the age of thirteen. His official 14 years at the Department has put him head of operations, the largest division of the department. He says he's always been running the behind the scenes day-to-day operations.

As the appointed acting chief today, on the heels of former interim police chief Ruben Santiago resigning yesterday, Kelly claims public safety is in no way compromised.

"The quality and level of service hasn't changed. If you call the police, we're coming," said Kelly.

This is all in the midst of city manager Teresa Wilson preparing to reveal her top candidate for a permanent police chief in a few days.
At least one former top cop won't be answering calls, though. That's because former interim police chief, Ruben Santiago, says he's entertaining a conditional job offer in the private sector, saying, "When I found out I wasn't in the top five [candidates], I started looking at different options. Something lucrative presented itself, and I couldn't say no."

He also says he wasn't forced to leave; he chose to. He says he did so before a final police chief hire was announced because he's already in preliminary training for his possible new job. He feels if he ever goes back to city policing, he would try and figure out how to keep focusing on the positive versus the negative. As for the acting chief, he comments, "I was ready to fill the shoes. I stand at the ready to do that to make sure things work properly."

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