Columbia City Manager changes his mind on police funding

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COLUMBIA- During Monday's city council meeting, city manager Mike Matthes took back his statement from last week, in which he said he would not ask voters for more money to hire additional police officers. At that time, Matthes said until the Columbia Police Officers' Association fired its director, Dale Roberts, for his controversial Facebook post, he would not propose any ballots to increase the police department's budget.

"Last week I emailed the city council that due to the Facebook post that the police union's attorney, Dale Roberts, I cannot recommend a ballot in the future," Matthes said Monday.

He said he did not want to suggest any budget increases for the police department because he felt voters would reject the ballot out of distrust for the police. Matthes said the CPOA's persistent poor reflection of police officers has undermined the public's trust in law enforcement.

However, Matthes said since he sent the email, he has had a change of heart.

"I have heard from our officers that this comment that I made last week, has made them feel uncertain about the future, and that I was penalizing them for the actions of their union's attorney," Matthes said. "Well, this pained me to hear. I do not want anything I say to make officers question the support they have from me."

Matthes said taking all this into consideration, he decided to take back his statement about not recommending a ballot to increase the department's budget. However, he warned if Roberts continues to make offensive posts online, the public's distrust of the police will grow, and voters will never approve a ballot to increase the department's budget.

"I will work to prepare a public safety ballot, to place before the city council, in 2017." Matthes said. "However, until the association deals with its public relations nightmare, I see no scenario in which it will pass."

Jim Hill works at the gun store "Target Masters" in Columbia. For the last few days the store's sign has stated, "We support Dale and the CPOA." Hill said he has stood by Roberts and the CPOA through the recent controversy following the Facebook post.

"Law enforcement around the country has taken such a hit, we want to support them as much as we can," said Hill.

Hill said though he strongly disagreed with Matthes' initial decision to stop asking the public to hire more police officers, he respects the city manager's willingness to admit a mistake.

"I think it took a man to do that, so I'll respect him for that much." Hill said.

Columbia Resident Dennis Goffar said the city manager should not base his decision to act on such an important issue, solely on one person's employment.

"Whether you hire more police officers should be based on the needs of the city," Goffar said. "Not where one person gets fired or not. I think it was good of him to realize that he made a mistake, and take it back. When someone makes a mistake it's always good for them to be willing to resend on it.""

Matthes said though he takes back his comments about not proposing a budget increase, he still strongly opposes Roberts' Facebook post.