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Open Records Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to file an Open Records request to get a copy of my police report?

No. If you wish to obtain a copy of your accident report or incident report you can do so by coming to the front desk of the Public Safety Complex located at 510 10th Street. If you are the victim of an offense or a party involved in the motor vehicle accident, the first copy is free. Additional copies can be obtained for .10 per page. Proper identification may is required.

What is the Georgia Open Records Act?

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) Open Records Act § 50-18-70 et seq governs which records are to be open for public inspection. For your convenience the law can be viewed by clicking here.

How do I make a request for records?

The request can be made in a variety of formats. You can submit the request via:

US Mail -   Columbus Police Department
  Office of Records Compliance
  Attn: Sgt. M. Brown
  510 10th Street
  P.O. Box 1866
  Columbus, Georgia 31902-1866
Telephone -   706-225-4306
Fax -   706-225-4315
Email -   cpdopenrecords@columbusga.org
   

How long does it take to obtain the results from an Open Records Request?

The actual length of time varies between each request. Records that are readily available will be provided within three (3) business-days from the date the request is received by the Records Compliance Office (50-18-71(B)(1)(A)). In those instances where some, but not all, records are available, the department will make production of the records as they become available. Additionally, the requestor will be provided with a timeline of when the record(s) will be available, as practicable.

How much does an Open Records request cost?

The department utilizes the most economical means reasonably calculated to identify and produce responsive, non-excluded records. All costs are determined by the prorated hourly salary of the lowest paid person eligible to complete the request, plus search, retrieval, redaction, production or copying costs (ten cents per page) and any materials provided with the request. The first quarter hour is free of charge.

Requests that cost under $25.00 will be produced with an accompanying bill for the required amount.

If a request exceeds $25.00 but is less than $500.00, the department will respond with the estimated cost and timeline of production of the record. Upon agreement to pay, the request will be processed and produced without delay.

If a request exceeds $500.00, the fee is required to be paid-in-full prior to search, retrieval and production. Upon payment, the request will be processed without delay.

What type of information is NOT provided through the Open Records Requests?

Public Disclosure will not be made for records that are identified by O.C.G.A §50-18-72(a).

    Some exemptions include but are not limited to:
  • Pending Investigations and Prosecutions (with exception the initial incident or accident report)
  • Records specifically required by federal statute or regulation to be kept confidential Medical Records
  • Criminal History Information
  • Warrant information
  • Name or Identification of a Sexual Assault victim
  • Driver's License and or vehicle registration information
  • Any record that may compromise security against sabotage or terrorist or criminal acts and the non-disclosure of such is necessary for the protection of life, safety or public property.


 

Traffic Citation Frequently Asked Questions

 

What if I get a traffic ticket?

Georgia law considers a traffic citation (ticket) as an arrest for a traffic infraction, even though you weren't taken into custody. To properly dispose of it, you have two options:

First, you may post a cash bond with Recorder's Court and not appear in court to contest the citation. This will be considered a guilty plea. The bond must be posted at least one hour prior to your scheduled court time. When you do not appear in court, your bond will be forfeited. The money at that time will be considered a fine and your driving history will reflect a conviction for the offense(s) with which you were charged. The officer who issued you the citation is not allowed to quote a bond amount to you. You must call Recorder's Court at 653-4256. Bonds may be mailed to the Court but they should be sent early enough to arrive prior to the court date. Only money orders are accepted. Do not send cash or checks. The mailing address is Recorder's Court, 702 10th St., Columbus, GA 31901.

Second, you may appear in court to contest the citation. You must be in court on the date and time listed on the citation or the Court may issue a Contempt of Court warrant for failure to appear. This could result in simply setting another court date or being arrested. This will be done at the discretion of the court not the officer. If you feel the citation was wrong, you must appear in Recorder’s Court to contest it. Once the citation is issued, the officer is not allowed to revoke it. Only Recorder’s Court is allowed to dispose of it.

In Recorder’s Court, your name will be called and both you and the officer will be allowed to approach the bench and tell the judge "your side of the story." You should bring any evidence or witnesses with you at that time. If you feel you need an attorney, he or she should be contacted prior to the court date so his/her schedule can be adjusted in order to appear with you.

A police officer is not allowed to advise you on how you should handle your case in court. If you need assistance, contact an attorney.

Georgia Law allows a person who is charged with a traffic offense to reduce his/her fine, by up to 20%, by taking a driver improvement course, provided the course is completed prior to the Court appearance. In addition, no points would be assessed on the license. A person may only use this provision of the law once every five years. Officers are given specific days to assign cases to Court. Should your Court date not allow you to complete the driver improvement course, you must get a time extension from the Recorder’s Court Judge. Officers may not change the Court date that has been set by their supervisor.

   
How do I rate the Columbus Police Department?

The Columbus Police Department has created an opinion survey, to better judge the communities overall view of the department. To print a copy of the Columbus Police Department's Job Performance Survey click here. After completing the survey, mail it to the following address:

Columbus Police Department
Community Relations Unit
510 10th Street
Columbus, Georgia 31902-1866

   
How do I make a complaint against an officer?

It is the policy of the Columbus Police Department to foster confidence from the citizens of Columbus and maintain high professional standards.  Our Department investigates all complaints against both sworn and civilian employees.  Any investigation or hearing arising from a complaint will be fairly conducted with truth as the primary objective.

A complaint against an officer should be registered with any supervisor in the Department.  A supervisor is any employee with the rank of sergeant or above or any civilian specifically designated as a supervisor.  Any supervisor receiving a complaint is required to notify his/her supervisor of the facts so that appropriate action may be taken.  When an employee who is not a supervisor receives a complaint, that employee is required to immediately notify a supervisor.

The specifics of the complaint are then determined.  If the complaint is such that the supervisor is unable to investigate, or if assistance is needed, he or she will forward the complaint through the chain of command to the Chief of Police with a request for assistance.  The complaint will then be reviewed and may be assigned to the Office of Professional Standards for further investigation.  These are normally completed with 30 days.     < Complaint Form in PDF Format >

The following acts or omissions may result in discipline of the employee:  commission of a criminal offense, neglect of duty, any conduct which may reflect unfavorably upon the employees of the Department and any violation of Department orders, policies or procedures. 

After the complaint has been thoroughly investigated, the file will be submitted to the Chief of Police for review.  All investigations of Departmental employees accused of misconduct will conclude with one of the following:

  • SUSTAINED - The investigation's findings reveal sufficient evidence to prove the allegations.
  • NOT SUSTAINED - The investigation's findings reveal insufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the complaint.
  • EXONERATED - The investigation's findings reveal the acts did occur but were justified, lawful and proper.
  • UNFOUNDED - The investigation's findings reveal that the acts in the complaint did not occur or did not involve Departmental employees
  • POLICY FAILURE - The investigation revealed the acts in the complaint did occur but were based on existing policy.  Responsibility for the acts resides within Departmental policy and not the employee.
  • ADMINISTRATIVE INVESTIGATION - The complainant failed to cooperate with the investigation and there is insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion and apply a finding.

The complainant will be advised of the outcome of the investigation.  Any discipline as a result of a complaint may include the following:  counseling, oral reprimand, remedial training, written reprimand, disciplinary probation, suspension without pay, demotion or dismissal.  Disciplinary actions are personnel matters and are not normally publicly disclosed.

   
What kind of weapons do Columbus Police Officers carry?
   
Columbus Police have a variety of weapons available to them.

The most visible weapon is the firearm. Officers are issued a Smith & Wesson model M&P, 45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Patrol officers also use a special holster designed to protect him or her by making it almost impossible for anyone but the officer to remove the weapon.

Officers also have available the ASP collapsible batons.  These replace the nightstick or "billy club" that police used to carry.  When being carried, it is approximately 8 inches long.  When necessary, it can be expanded to approximately 18" to be used as defensive protection for the officer.

Officers also carry "OC spray", also known as "pepper spray."  This is a special formulation of derivatives of the pepper plant known as oleo capsicum.  It is a disabling weapon used for combatant individuals.  OC spray is painful but not actually harmful to an individual.

Some officers also carry a hand weapon known as a "Taser."  This device shoots electrodes at a disruptive subject and the ensuing electrical impulses disrupt superficial muscle functions causing most individuals to become compliant.

Depending on the type or severity of a situation, other weapons may be available to the patrol officer or to other specially trained officers but are not normally carried by all police officers.  These weapons include shotguns, "pepper ball" guns, "bean bag" guns and others.

All officers are required to qualify annually with each weapon they are allowed to use, i.e., they must show proficiency with each of the weapons to be allowed to use it.

   
What is required to become a Columbus Police Officer?
   
Columbus has one of the most respected and best-trained police departments in the Southeast.  The standards to become an officer are higher than most other departments.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • At least 21 years of age
  • Citizen of the United States
  • No felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions involving moral turpitude
  • Successful completion of at least 96-quarter hours or 63 semester hours of academic studies from a college or university accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Each Applicant Must Successfully Complete:

  • Physical agility test
  • State entrance examination
  • Background investigation
  • Polygraph examination
  • Psychological examination
  • Oral interview

For more information see the section on Recruitment.  An application may be downloaded and additional benefits are listed.

   
How can I get a copy of a vehicle accident or incident report?
 

Reports are generally filed by the patrol officers at the end of their shift, so reports are usually available within approximately 48 hours of the report being taken. The Georgia Open Records Act limits access to motor vehicle accident reports to those people involved in the accident and their insurers. They are not available for public inspection.

For your convenience, obtaining a copy of your crash report is easier than ever. Simply go to www.BuyCrash.com and enter the information on the card given to you by the officer at the scene. You'll be able to view, download, and print your report for a fee of $11.00; or

If you are in the area of the Columbus Police Department, located at 510 10th Street, you can pickup a copy of the report. You should appear in person with enough identifying information about the incident (names, date, etc.) for the officer to locate the report.