City council discusses contract designed to help with community policing
COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council will vote Monday on a $60,320 contract for professionals to put together an event and help create a plan of action for community policing.
The contract would bring in Heart of America United Way to consult with the city on how to make the plan. The city would bring together stakeholders from around Columbia to discuss it and arrange a community event in November.
The event would include speakers and presentations on traffic stop data and what the police department is doing with community policing.
Ward 2 Council Member Michael Trapp said the goal is to have an organized process.
"The purpose of the contract is to have professional facilitators pull together key stakeholders like racial justice activists, police management, police union officials, interested people in the community and have a consensus based event that educates the community on the status of race and policing in Columbia," Trapp said.
He said he wants to better support the police by bringing the community together.
"That’s going to take some money and some expertise and it’s going to take a lot of time to move carefully to lay the groundwork, to invite the important stakeholders together so that they can plan a process that can get the real story out into the media,” Trapp said.
Peggy Placier, a member of Race Matters, Friends, said she likes the idea, but wants more details on how to get the different stakeholders to the meetings.
"We don't want it to be a gathering of just the usual people in Columbia," Placer said. "We'd like to have people's voices that aren't often invited and that takes more effort. It has to include broad community involvement including people who may be alienated by the police."
Placier said it could be a tough process to bring people together, but she thinks the facilitators have the experience to do it.
"It will be an interesting combination," Placier said. "I think the consultants can bring us together."
Ward 3 Council Member Karl Skala said he doesn't think it's wise to spend more than $60,000 to answer a question the city already knows.
"I don't think that's a wise number for taxpayer dollars." he said.
Skala said there is no doubt community policing is needed and he believes strategic planning would be helpful with conversations about racial profiling and police morale.
“Ultimately we have to increase the number of police officers that we have," he said. "Community policing takes more time. The problem is our police department size right now is limited. They spend most of their time going from one call to the other, except for those specifically in the community policing."