Columbia Police plead for increased funding from city council
COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council will face questions Tuesday night about the state of Columbia Police.
Executive Director of the Columbia Police Officers Association Dale Roberts will speak on behalf of the department at the city council meeting.
In April of 2013, the people of Columbia voted to have Boone County take over 911 operations in the city. Roberts says the city council promised the $2 million operating budget lost in the move would remain with public safety.
Later on December 1, 2014, five positions from public safety were also eliminated.
"Those five vacant positions would have paid for five police officers with money left over," Roberts said.
According to Roberts, the council has shown support for adding police officers to the force. However, it has been unwilling to commit financial means to this effort, or even provide a cohesive explanation of where the $2 million went.
"Numerous explanations from the city on where the money went, and those explanations are rarely the same. Sometimes the money was used to balance the budget. Sometimes it was used to give all employees pay raises. Depending on which press release you look at, you get a different answer," Roberts said.
Officials say the increase in officers is needed to enhance preventive measures.
"It puts the department entirely where they just react. If there is a crime, they will come write a report, and do a chalk outline, but they don't have the staffing to do any prevention," Roberts said.
Roberts says the department needs about 50 additional officers to provide proper protection for the community.
"That's really the minimum to protect the citizens of this community," Roberts said.
In the city council meeting, City Manager Mike Matthes responded to Roberts claims by saying that the council kept every promise they made, and that closer examination of the budget would prove this.
"Saying we took money out of public safety is a lie," Matthes said.
There is no word on any additional officers that could be hired in the future.