COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council is set to hear a proposal for a community-oriented policing program on Monday, during the regular city council meeting at 7 p.m.

The Columbia Citizens Police Review Board sent a letter to Mayor Brian Treece and members of the City Council on April 23, which outlined a new community-oriented policing program. The program was created by board member Carly Gomez and newly elected Vice Chair Heather Heckman-McKenna.

The Columbia Citizens Police Review Board's mission is to "bridge the gap between law enforcement, and the community, to help increase trust." The program, proposed by the board, would provide Columbia Police officers with education and support to "embrace and implement" community-oriented policing tactics.

“This program can help open these lines of communication and lead to more understanding, and more respect by putting police officers, and city staff, in direct conversations continuously with community members, we can really develop those relationships,” Gomez said.

Previous Community-Oriented Policing models have been brought up, with the 2014 Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence recommending a community oriented policing model. There was also a resolution supported by city council in February 2018. The Citizens Police Review Board states in their letter to Mayor Treece and City Council, that previous proposals lacked "actionable steps toward community-oriented policing".

Andrea Waner, Columbia City Council Member for Ward 2 agrees that actionable steps are crucial to enacting a plan. 

“The community wants to be heard, they want to see tangible actionable items brought before City Council to make meaningful reform on how community policing works in Columbia, and this is the first step to be able to do that," Waner said. 

In their letter, CPRB cites programs and community initiatives from the New Orleans Police Department, the Georgetown University Innovative Policing Program and the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. The creators of the program, Gomez and Heckman-McKenna, conducted extensive research regarding past community policing programs and policing data. 

The program would begin as a one-year competitive program for new police officers, with an interview process for eligible officers who have been a part of CPD for two years or less. Interviews will be conducted by a city official, police representative, and community member.

Eighteen officers would be selected to be a part of the program based on their "openness to community-oriented policing and discussions of social injustice, and their interest in future police leadership positions."

There would be monthly workshops to cover topics related to community oriented policing. Monthly sessions would include peer support, an emotional component run by professors and community members and an activity with community stakeholders, like a discussion forum.

Waner explained that community feedback, discussion and communication are important. 

"We need to be using the evidence and the data that we’re presented with, alongside, the lived realities and lived experiences of those in our community, to make real and lasting change for our community," she said.

Monthly Program Session Topics Include:

  • Trauma Informed Policing
  • Systemic Racism
  • LGTBQIA+ Safe Space
  • Overcoming Implicit Bias
  • Columbia History
  • Juvenile Brain Development
  • Personal Wellness and Mental Health
  • Over Criminalization and Mass Incarceration
  • Homelessness
  • Bystander Action
  • Community Leadership
  • Disability

The goals of the program include:

  1. Create and sustain a philosophy of community-oriented policing within officers
  2. Steadily develop a cultural shift within the police department wherein community-police
  3. partnerships are encouraged
  4. Peer-to-peer mentorship that increase morale of officers and increase accountability
  5. Community and police interactions and conversations that address social justice issues
  6. Education on topics meaningful to the Columbia community and that uphold long-term
  7. community-oriented policing goals
  8. Leadership training with a focus on equity and community

After a year of monthly sessions, the program would end with a capstone project for each officer, involving community groups from the monthly sessions. 

After the first year of the program is complete, officers would participate in exit interviews to help guide policing in a way that best serves the needs of the Columbia community and its police officers. While the program will only accept 18 officers at the beginning, future cycles are expected to bring in officers who have been a part of the department for longer.

The proposed budget for the Community Oriented Policing Program is $82,884.00 and can be found in the letter addressed to Mayor Treece and the City Council.

The program proposal is part of the "reports" section on the meeting agenda, meaning a council member will have to champion the proposal in order to move forward in implementing the proposal. 

KOMU 8 will stream the 7 p.m. City Council meeting on KOMU.com, KOMU 8 News app and KOMU 8 streaming apps on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Android TV.

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