Review Board Backs Off-Duty Officers at Planned Parenthood

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COLUMBIA - In a debate between Planned Parenthood and a local anti-abortion group, the Citizens' Police Review Board endorsed the city's policy of allowing businesses to hire off-duty officers for patrols-- and to have them wear their CPD uniforms for safety.

More than 40 people turned out for the meeting, but in a strange twist, the board actually made its decision before hearing any public comment. Several told me afterwards they were extremely disappointed in that decision.

The controversy was over police presence outside the clinic and whether hired security can remain objective in disputes between the two groups. The anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life says the officers outside Planned Parenthood are like referees in a Mizzou football game being paid by the other team. The group was hoping for one of two changes: either officers to be paid by the city of Columbia instead of Planned Parenthood, or for officers to wear the uniform of a private security guard.

"We want a decision that essentially levels the playing field between Planned Parenthood and between us. Because at any point of contention, becuase they're employed by Planned Parenthood, they side with Planned Parenthood," said Joanne Schrader of 40 Days for Life.

Planned Parenthood says police are necessary for the safety of patients and staff, and that the officers are absolutely objective.

"Police are the best people to handle the situation. They know both the rights of the protestors and the rights of the patients that are coming into Planned Parenthood," said Michelle Trupiano of Planned Parenthood.

The board heard emotional comments from many members of the public on the issue, but not until after it had discussed the issue extensively itself and already voted to endorse the current policy.