Community policing addressed at City Council

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COLUMBIA – People from the city of Columbia gathered at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to discuss a community-oriented policing resolution. It asks City Manager Mike Matthes to make some changes.

The resolution calls for a community-oriented policing program. Matthes is specifically being asked to come up with a “transition plan, timeline and budget for modifying current CPD policies, procedures and operations and implementing the new program.”

The plan suggests putting officers in specific neighborhoods for long-term assignments, adopting crime prevention strategies and building relationships with  residents and business owners.

One of the main points of the resolution is building better relationships between police and community members. 

“In the past, the philosophy of policing in general, not just in Columbia, has been that the police are in charge of policing and it is their responsibility to execute policing on the community,” said Race Matters, Friends group member Rachel Taylor.  “We want to change that so that the community is seen as having equal power.”

Columbia resident Pat Hardin said community policing will help make people feel more safe and confident in the police.   

Hardin currently lives in north Columbia, where she says there is a lot of crime. She believes that community policing will help with that.

“As a mother with a son of a 10-year-old, with or without kids, I think we all want to feel safe and know that we’re safe and where I currently live at, I enjoy seeing the sheriffs drive through, she said.

Both Taylor and Hardin said they also want to see more diversity in community-oriented policing. 

Taylor said, “We have solid evidence that people of color are treated differently here, so as community we want to say, 'that’s not right and that should be changed and we want to work together to change it.'”

She said one thing hindering police officers from performing well is poor leadership from Chief Burton.  

“He has, for two years now, denied that racial profiling happens in Columbia,” Taylor said. “He will not talk about race and has very poor cultural competency and racial literacy, so he can talk to us about the disparities we have noticed. He is blocking progress, that’s it.”

Taylor said she believes better relationships and communication with officers can help change racial profiling.  

“What I want to see is cops being part of the community, and trusted parts of the community, so we don’t have to go out of our way to ensure that we have a good relationship with the cops,” she said.

Matthes is expected to draft his project plan by June 30.