COLUMBIA - For the second time this year, the Columbia Police Officers' Association criticized the city manager for allowing a city official to testify in court.
"It was one of those drop jaw moments where you can't believe what you're seeing," said Dale Roberts, Columbia Police Officers' Association executive director.
Neighborhood outreach specialists have testified on behalf of criminal suspects twice in recent months. Roberts said that means the city is helping some people get back on the streets who shouldn't be there.
Glen Cobbins testified for a man accused of first degree robbery. Cobbins said he appeared in court on Nov. 20 on behalf of City Manager, Mike Matthes. According to the trial transcript,Cobbins said he was in favor of the court ordering a bond reduction for the suspect and said he would "love to have him" in the Columbia workforce.
Earlier in the year, Judy Hubbard testified for a man who was later convicted for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle and careless driving. Hubbard advocated for the man's work release.
In an interview with the Missourian, Matthes said the city is trying to practice focused deterrence efforts, designed to prevent repeat offenses by connecting offenders and their families with police and community services.
Roberts and several other members of the police officers association, however, believe the efforts aren't applicable to people already in the legal system.
"The focused deterrence program would say when someone commits a serious crime, they receive swift and severe punishment to correct that activity, so they get the message don't do that again," Roberts said.
Roberts said if city employees continue to testify, it may be difficult to repair the relationship between officers and the city.
"It's one of those 'fool me once' situations, so I think it will take a while for the officers to ever trust city manager's office again after something like this, which is very unfortunate," Roberts said.
KOMU 8 News reached out to the City Manager's office for comment but did not get a response.