Boone Co. official proposes collaboration between law enforcement agencies

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COLUMBIA - Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill is asking the public to be part of a discussion to join law enforcement services in the city and county.

"It just seems that the county and the city have gone on parallel paths to develop their respective public institutions," he said. 

Atwill said the collaboration between CPD and the Sheriff's Department could make law enforcement more efficient and save economic resources. 

He said the lack of police officers in Columbia was not his motivation to propose this idea, but said the combined work of law enforcement agencies could help with that problem.

"There are numerous places around the city, some of them larger than others, that the sheriff has responsibility that to get to them you have to traverse through the city," Atwill said. 

Atwill presented his idea at the Civic Appreciation Breakfast, Wednesday morning. However, it is not yet a formal proposal, so the possible costs and benefits are not known. 

"I would hope we would come to an arrangement that would allow us to employ a consultant that's an expert on this kind of arrangement and that could evaluate all of the law enforcement entities in the county and discuss with knowledgeable background what could be done, what should be done and whether it would save funds," he said. 

Steven Sapp, spokesperson with the City of Columbia, said the Civic Appreciation Breakfast was the first time Atwill's proposal was talked about. 

"What we would really need to happen then is that the county commission would have to provide some additional information on what their thoughts are," he said. "And then council, because this would be a public policy issue, would really need to then direct staff whether to proceed to enter into any types of talks with the county."

However, Atwill said, "this is not a novel idea."

"Other areas in the country have done this, and some areas in the state of Missouri have done this," he said. "I think we need to look at those and see if that's worked favorably for the benefit of the citizens and go ahead and give careful consideration."

Both Atwill and Sapp said, the city and county administrations already collaborate in areas such as health services, road maintenance and snow removal

"Both entities should certainly look for any type of collaborative efforts that they can, that make sense and try to move forward with those," Sapp said. 

Atwill said, "I think that what we are suggesting would be of benefit to the city, that you increase the overall size of the force by a consolidation."

Sapp said it could take years before Atwill's informal proposal could become a reality. 

Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey said, "Commissioner Atwill's suggestion/recommendation is worth exploring."

In the meantime, Atwill is encouraging people to reach out to the county commission and share their thoughts on the idea to join city and county law enforcement agencies. 

"In reality, the public should be driving this force, this concept," he said. "If it meets with a cold reception by the public it would probably just fade away. If the public agrees that it should be studied, then we should study the employment of appropriate consultants to give us more information and a plan."