Police department jobs at risk after Council vote

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COLUMBIA – By a vote of 6-1, The Columbia City Council voted to remove job protection for the city’s Police Lieutenants at Monday’s council meeting. Mayor Brian Treece voted against the change.

Dale Roberts, Executive Director for The Columbia Police Officers’ Association (TCPOA) said this is not the first time similar tactics have been implemented.

“They did this to the Captains about four years ago, and now this year they have taken job protection away from the Lieutenants. Really, we fear that they are going to keep doing this and next year it will be the Sergeants,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the police force now has a fear of job security.

“Now, people in those positions can be fired for no reason at all, with no notice at all. They have no way to appeal the choice, they are just fired,” he said.

Roberts said the only reason stated for this vote by city staff was growing concern over disloyalty from the command staff. However, Councilman Karl Skala said the council’s vote was a result of negotiations between the two parties.

“My vote to vote yes with respect to the Lieutenants was really a combination of my consideration and the recommendation from the city staff. It was also the result of the mediation process between Lieutenants and the city staff,” Skala said.

The Columbia Police Officers’ Association also has concerns over a recent study which found poor morale within the Columbia Police Department.

“Nine weeks ago, we released our morale survey, which showed morale was extremely bad. Years ago the city did a survey which showed department morale was ‘toxic’. Our survey from nine weeks ago still shows that eighty-four percent of officers still believe the work environment is toxic,” Roberts said.

Roberts said according to the Department of Justice, a municipality should have 2.5 officers for every 1,000 residents. He said Columbia only has 1.3 officers per 1,000 residents, leaving about 50 jobs open in the Columbia Police Department. 

However, Councilman Skala said the police job vacancies are not as open as others believe.

“Frankly, I think we need somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen to twenty new police officers. So last night we agreed to hire four more but at some point or another we will have to add just a couple more in the future," Skala said.