News

August 29, 2014

Mayor calls on Public Safety Committee to convene special meeting

Call to discuss drug lab closure

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin wants city council to look into the closing of the police department's drug laboratory.

Last week, Police Chief Skip Holbrook ordered the department's drug lab closed after an audit found a pattern of improper procedures. Drug lab analyst Brenda Frazier resigned as a result of the audit's findings.

Friday, Mayor Benjamin asked Public Safety Committee Chair Brian DeQuincey Newman to convene a special meeting of the committee to discuss the drug lab closure and gather as much information as possible.

In the e-mail to Newman, Benjamin said, "collect all the facts surrounding the drug lab's closure and provide an extensive and detailed briefing to Council so that we and the people can clearly understand how this happened, what could have been done to prevent it, what is the potential impact to our city and citizens and what we are doing  now to both minimize that impact and ensure that a situation like this never happens again."

Benjamin said since it was announced last week the lab was closed, "a number of questions remain in our minds and in the minds of out constituents about the circumstances which led to this situation and the action being taken to resolve it."

"Let's leave no stone unturned," the e-mail read.

The audit conducted on July 11 found several inconsistencies and questionable lab practices by Frazier.

Dr. Demetra Garvin with the Richland County Sheriff's Department said Frazier had "significant gaps in her previous training and experience and may not currently possess the knowledge necessary to competently perform drug analysis."

After the audit, Holbrook issued a directive to cease operation of the drug lab at the Columbia Police Department August 22nd. However, all chemical drug analysis in the lab was discontinued on July 21.

WISTV Report