Group upset after police community outreach units dissolved
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department recently announced their decision to end its Community Outreach Unit and some citizens are upset.
The department plans to form a new resource unit to replace the Community Outreach Unit. It will be made up of eight officers and two sergeants who will each be assigned a beat.
Columbia Police Deputy Chief Jill Schlude said this was necessary because of staff shortages.
This will free up six extra officers to return to patrol, but comes at a cost.
The Community Outreach Unit which serves four neighborhoods based on a community policing approach will be dissolved.
Rachel Taylor, secretary for Race Matters, Friends, says this sudden decision will have consequences.
“It’s going to undermine trust between the community and the police department,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the outreach units made positive impacts in their communities.
“I have heard anecdotal reports from community members to which the COU units were assigned that they felt like they were having a very positive impact on the community, the police were able to receive trusted intelligence about crimes and the community believed that the police had their best interest and safety in mind,” she said.
Taylor says the removal of this program is a step backwards.
“The dissolving of the community outreach units is a major step away from what has been articulated as best practices for community oriented policing,” she said.
Race Matters, Friends is a Facebook group that has advocated for community oriented policing for years.
“One of the things that Race Matters, Friends has advocated for is moving the philosophy of community oriented policing and the practice out of those specific neighborhoods and into the entire force.”
Taylor says it’s about working together.
“Community oriented policing starts with a philosophy that supposes that the police and the community are part of a whole and that we are all working together to achieve public safety”
The Columbia Police Department says the changes were based on low staffing numbers, but it’s not about money.
“One of the arguments that the Columbia Police Department has had is that they are severely understaffed. We’ve challenged that for several reasons, for one we often say that a philosophy change doesn’t cost anything,” she said.
KOMU 8 reached out to the Columbia Police Department, but has not heard back. More information on the departments decision can be found here.