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COLUMBIA - City council approved a community policing resolution on Monday night. This came after City Manager Mike Matthes selected Sgt. Robert Fox to lead the community policing effort Saturday.

The council unanimously voted to pass the resolution, which directs Matthes to design a community-oriented policing program and transition plan for the Columbia Police Department. Stakeholders like community members will be involved in the planning.

Race Matters, Friends President Traci Wilson-Kleekamp said the focus needs to be on philosophy and the community.

“It feels like every time we talk about community policing, there’s a little bit of a distraction, this thing about staffing and money,” Wilson-Kleekamp said.

Ian Thomas, Fourth Ward City Councilmen, said he agrees.

“I agree entirely with Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, that our focus right now is about a philosophy. Community-oriented policing is at its foundation a philosophy of public safety in which police professionals and community members are equal partners in a collaborative process to design and plan for and conduct operations to keep everybody safe,” Thomas said.

Residents used Monday night's meeting to express their concerns.

One of those residents, Rachel Taylor, said, “I expect the city to treat this project with the respect it deserves."

“We’re in this place with community policing because we didn’t value those communities then,” Wilson-Kleekamp said.“We can talk about the money, but the leadership matters.”

Other residents used the meeting to express their support.

Chip Cooper, a resident who was in strong support of the resolution, said, “I believe this community that we love is capable of landing on a approach that will knit us closer together, make us all feel safer and ensure that Columbia remains a place that many still wish to live, work, learn, raise families and retire.”

NAACP President Mary Ratliff offered a helping hand.

“We the NAACP are committed to work with you as long as it takes and work with you as hard as we can to make sure we make Columbia the beloved community that is a place where we all want to live," Ratliff said.

The cost is unknown at this time and will depend on the programs Fox and Matthes choose to create in the next six months. 

A possible solution Thomas suggested is working with youth to help get rid of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Although the community policing pilot program is already active in four communities in Columbia, Thomas said community engagement is essential in the next six months for building a consensus between police and the community.

Thomas talked about the main goals of the resolution: "Dramatically reduced crime, very good cooperation between police and community members when crimes do occur," he said. "In solving those crimes, assistance for people who have mental health, economic challenges that often get sucked into criminal activity and averting those problems by providing those people with the services they need so they don’t get into crime.” 

As stated in the resolution, Matthes is required to present a completed plan for the community policing program to the council by Aug. 31.

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