Lack of officers main barrier to youth-oriented community policing
COLUMBIA - According to the Bureau of Justice, one in ten young black person comes into contact with police officers; those officers use force on one in four.
That's why at a Wednesday meeting, members of the Citizens Police Review Board called for more focused interaction between police officers and Columbia's young people, particularly those of color.
"For the most part when we see a lot of the negative interactions with law enforcement, it's young black males," said board Chairman Darryl Smith. "If we can do something to stem that tide, I think we have a responsibility to do so."
Andre Cook, the Columbia Police Department's trainer, said a video about interaction with young people of color is already part of officer training. However, Smith said, because the video is not based in Columbia, its impact is limited.
"It's great to have a video, but the concerns of Columbia youth are not expressed in that video," Smith said. "The concerns in those videos may be generalizations."
Smith and other members of the board suggested more hands-on, labor-intensive remedies centered around outreach, but acknowledged the limitations officers face.
"Getting into the communities you're policing and getting out of the car - it's hard to do that when you don't have enough officers," Smith said.
The Columbia Police Officers Association echoed that sentiment.
"It's one of many ideas out there that I think the officers look at and go 'it'd be great if we had the capacity to do it,'" said Dale Roberts, the executive director of the association.
Roberts said, while he's unsure of CPD's ability to executive a labor-intensive program, he understands it's appeal.
"The theory, as I understand it, is you invest in the youth and it fosters a better relationship and that surely a worthy goal," he said.
Both Smith and Roberts agree that, in order to create an effective community outreach program that engages the young people, more officers need to be hired.
"It's a matter of setting priorities," Smith said. "Are there places to make reallocations? What is important? I think that's something that needs to be addressed at a level above where I am."