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This story was first published on March 1, 2023. It is being republished to provide city councilors with the opportunity to remember its significance.
COLUMBUS, Ga. — “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.” — Gen. Colin Powell.
The city council meeting held on Feb. 28, 2023 was perhaps the most divisive, destructive, and vulgar display of human dishonesty in our recent memory — though one man’s integrity worked to unite our city instead.
During the public agenda portion of the “specially-called” meeting, more than a dozen residents angrily spewed race-baiting, divisive, accusatory, completely unfounded, and literally-illogical narratives in futile attempts to defend police chief Freddie Blackmon’s years of leadership failures during his time as chief of police. They were nasty — and when we say nasty, we mean the same sort of behavior that potentially leads to violence. It was that bad. Grotesque. Disgusting. Embarrassing. Degrading.
One man, however, had the courage to speak up, set the example, and set the record straight. That man was Byron Hickey.
Byron Hickey, a 30-year veteran of the Columbus Police Department, wasn’t phased by the intimidation in the room. Through the sort of integrity and courage that can only be forged through a lifetime and career of experience, Hickey spoke up against the race-baiting narratives being pressed onto him and his peers.
Hickey was also the only person in the room with any sort of bonafide credentialing and experience to actually know what he was talking about. With 30 years of experience on the force at CPD — many of them as a detective — Hickey personally worked with Blackmon on the department’s original gang unit as well as on the VICE/Narcotics unit. If you didn’t notice by his picture at the top of this article, Hickey just-so-happens to be a black man as well.
Here’s what Hickey had to say to our city officials, in-full and unedited:
//——— BEGIN STATEMENT———//
“I wasn't going to speak about this, but I want to address something concerning Lieutenant Dowe. What y'all don’t know is Lieutenant Dowe — the reason he’s filed this lawsuit about not being promoted — was simply because the first two times that he was ‘overlooked’ by Chief Boren — as you put it — it wasn’t that he was overlooked. He yielded to the people who had more time than he did. He was on the Captain list, highly promotable. Now, the two people that Blackmon promoted … were not on the list as a Lieutenant — was not on there — was not on the list. And because they were not on the list is the reason why he’s filing this lawsuit. He was highly promotable. Again, people need to get their facts right. That’s all that I’m saying.
So what I’m saying here today is … I was a police detective for over 30 years, with 30 years of service with the Columbus Police Department. I’m here today on behalf of the citizens of Columbus, and the men and women of the Columbus Police Department.
Let me start by saying that Chief Blackmon is my friend. And we was (sic) partners in two units: the original Gang Task Force, and the VICE & Narcotics Unit. No matter what the situation is, we should always be able to tell our friends the truth — but I will not put our friendship before the citizens of Columbus.
I’m here today concerning the poor leadership of Chief Blackmon. Since his appointment, a total of four studies have been done concerning his leadership. All four studies’ results are not good. Many of us wanted to see Chief Blackmon succeed, but it’s not working.
Last year in February, during the council meeting, the FOP — which consists of both black and white officers — presented its survey results of its members, which revealed a no confidence vote in Chief Blackmon’s leadership.
After presenting the presentation by the FOP, the city manager Isaiah Hugley pulled the race card.
Now, let me say this — and I want EVERYBODY to hear me VERY clearly:
Mr. City Manager, whoever told you that I said you pulled the race card, they told you the truth. I said it then, and I stand to say it here today. That is what you did. And because you pulled the race card, it has created a climate of division in our community concerning Chief Blackmon’s leadership. This type of behavior is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the mayor and council. God forbid, anyone getting hurt behind these careless and reckless actions. This type of behavior could potentially put law enforcement officers in harm's way.
I have a question to the council and mayor: Who does the city manager work for?
The city manager’s responsibility is general government — not public safety. Never has this happened before that he’s gotten over to the lane of public safety. So, if this is not his lane, then why is he there?
Citizens of Columbus, ask yourself a question: Is there a hidden agenda behind this performance? Since Chief Blackmon’s appointment, over 100 men and women — both black and white — left the Columbus Police Department because of his poor leadership.
Several white and black officers left the Columbus Police Department and went to work for Sheriff Greg Countryman, who’s a black man. So where is the racism?!
If they’re leaving there and going to work for another black man, where is the racism?!
There is NO racism! (crowd gives applause)
Their leaving has nothing to do with racism, and it has everything to do with leadership — poor leadership.
On last Friday, I had an opportunity to attend a public meeting at the Greater Beallwood Baptist Church. During this meeting, Dr. Hood asked a question in reference to the Liberty Theatre. The response to the question from the city manager was: “By the next two elections, there will be a black mayor and a black council.”
I thought to myself: “Now, how racist is that?!” If you're trying to promote and fight racism, why would you make a comment like that? Columbus is a melting pot. It’s a military town. So, remember: hidden agenda.
Let’s not forget: racism has no color. It can come from anyone.
To the mayor and council: I want you to know that the majority of the citizens of this community support you on this very important matter to hire a new police chief. Time is of the essence. Change is hard, but it’s the mayor’s and council’s responsibility to make sure that the visitors and law enforcement officers are safe in our community; that we have good leadership in the police department.”
//——— END OF STATEMENT———//
Practically all of those who spoke did so on topics that they not only had absolutely no experience in, but were also just flat-out objectively wrong about. Most were political activists with histories of playing the race card to unjustly achieve racial political ends. We’ll be diving into this deeply tomorrow, breaking down each claim made and refuting them.
Byron Hickey exhibited exactly the sort of leadership that our city needs. Perhaps our city officials should take note of his integrity, courage, principle, and oratory.
Byron Hickey is a leader. Our city officials could — and should — learn from his example.
Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.
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