Survey results fast track community policing
COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia is working to improve community-police relations after results from its 2016 Citizen Survey showed a seven percent decrease in the overall satisfaction with local police services.
The City hit an all-time low with police satisfaction in 2015, when it dropped to only 59 percent satisfaction. In 2016, that number dropped to 52 percent.
Columbia Community Relations Director Steven Sapp said there are several reasons for this decrease.
There’s a lot of issues out there facing law enforcement today, from improper use of force and so forth," Sapp said. "So we’re really thinking that what we’re seeing is just kind of that general attitude toward law enforcement that is seen across the country."
Sapp said the drop could also possibly be due to longer response times due to the shortage of officers.
Sapp said the city does not have enough resources to be able to adequately support its police department.
"Unfortunately, and this sounds like the government broken record, our revenue to provide these services are not increasing at the same rate that the size of our city is, and the demands that that places on these services," Sapp said.
Sapp said the city is looking at how to reallocate resources in order to raise satisfaction with police.
What we’re really looking at now is how do we realign our resources and our revenues to be able to perhaps give more credence toward areas of the survey that citizens are reporting dissatisfaction, but at the same time not stripping away those resources where residents are reporting high areas of satisfaction," Sapp said.
Sapp said the city either needs to cut services, or collect more money.
Columbia City Councilman Ian Thomas said he understands how pressured Columbia police officers feel.
"I think we want the residents of Columbia to understand how very highly stressed our police department currently is," Thomas said. "I’ve done a ride along with officers, and they go from one emergency call to another to another with no down time."
Thomas is working toward improving community-police relations through community-oriented policing.
"What that means is that the police have more time to visit with people to get to know people, residents, business owners, go into the schools, especially the high schools, and build those positive relationships," Thomas said.
Thomas said he has been working on community oriented policing for two years now.
"The more I’ve learned about it, the more I’ve felt it’s a really good fit for Columbia," Thomas said.
Thomas also said that right now, the police department does not have enough officers and resources to be able to take time to meet with community members.
"It does involve additional staffing, but the benefits of community-oriented policing are enormous," Thomas said. "Not just in preventing crime, there are also benefits in being able to solve crime when crime does occur, because more members of the community have the relationship with the police and are willing to support them."