The Columbia (S.C.) Police chief is pushing back on a City Council plan to divert homeless people from the city center, telling The State that "homelessness is not a crime."

Interim Chief Ruben Santiago has told city officials that officers can't transport homeless adults to the riverfront shelter nor can police tell them they would be charged with a nuisance offense if they refuse.

Councilman Cameron Runyan, who proposed assigning officers to enforce public nuisance offenses, criticized the chief Monday. "Santiago is the one who said in the (Aug. 5 City Hall) meeting that they could transport people," he said.

Chief Santiago said his officers "have to have the legal right" to question of take anyone into custody.

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