Columbia Police push to create connection with community

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COLUMBIA – Columbia residents gathered at city hall Friday night for a meeting organized by the city’s police department to start a committee between residents and their department.

CPD began the meeting by explaining their main goal of making a stronger connection with everyone in the local community.

“Some of us joke around about not wanting to be ‘social workers with guns’,” Officer Michael Hestir said. “But in all seriousness, we do have to act, partly, as social workers, creating relationships.”

A few of the officers gave emotional testimonies, both positive and negative, from their personal experiences in the line of duty.

“When we do things like go play basketball with the kids and other residents, it’s something that helps us bridge that gap,” Officer Justin Anthony said. “People might think it’s weird, out there in these clothes, but it makes us comfortable with each other.”

Residents had a chance to voice their own opinions at the end of the meeting, which were generally positive. Police also answered questions they posed about how the committee would operate. 

“This committee won’t focus on things other committees like to, such as, ‘what colors are the chairs going to be?” Hestir said. “It will take some time, but as long as we focus on creating this connection, and nothing else, we can make a big difference.”