Columbia city manager to address police strategy change

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COLUMBIA - City Manager Mike Matthes said he will speak at the council meeting Monday, following the announcement of changes to the police department's Community Outreach Unit.

The Community Outreach Unit's 14-officer staff will be reduced to eight officers. Each of these eight officers will be assigned to one of the eight beats of the city to continue their work as part of the Community Outreach Unit. Previously, these officers were assigned to one of four areas with the highest number of 911 calls in the city.

Race Matters, Friends, a local civil rights group, expressed frustration over alleged secrecy of the changes.

"[Matthes] seemed to pay no attention to what the community wants when it comes to community oriented policing," said Rachel Taylor, the group's secretary. "By not bringing this change before the council and the public before it was made."

Matthes said knowing what the community wants is easier said than done.

"If you ask 10 people what the goal of community policing is, you'll get 12 answers," Matthes said. 

Columbia Police Sgt. Robert Fox published a rough draft of his report in August detailing the ways Columbia could use community policing. Taylor said this report is not being taken into account. 

"There is no connection between Fox's report and this change," Taylor said.

Fox will publish the final draft of the report before the end of the calendar year.

Taylor said Race Matters, Friends will have "a bunch" of members at the City Council Meeting on Monday to discuss these changes.