COLUMBIA — The Columbia Citizens Police Review Board saw its first glimpse Wednesday night of the reaction to a story that's gotten national attention — Columbia residents packed themselves into council chambers to get a turn to speak about a Feb. 11 SWAT raid in which police shot and killed a dog.
Many expressed their outrage at the incident, saying the police are not in touch with the community. Some simply thanked the review board for existing, while others called on them to become more active in reaching out to citizens who might be intimidated by police.
"I represent the thugs, the youth," said local musician and radio host Tyree Byndom. "They wouldn't even think of coming to this building."
Byndom challenged the board on its review process' accessibility. "This process needs to be made as simple as possible so that an illiterate person can understand it," he said.
Many people wanted to complain directly to the review board about incidents involving police, but the board can only handle appeals of complaints that first go through the Police Department. Explanations from board members drew criticism from some in the audience.
"I’m just saying that taking the complaint to the group you’re complaining about seems ineffectual," said Columbia resident Nicholas Recker.
Others had suggestions for how police could handle documentation.
Public defender Jennifer Bukowsky, after speaking about the need for greater accountability, said body cameras for each officer — such as the ones used on officers downtown — would help improve transparency for SWAT teams. She said a lot of furor around February's SWAT raid at the home of Jonathan Whitworth came from having only one point of view that didn't show a lot of action.
American Civil Liberties Union local president Dan Viets said shooting dogs is not a new thing for the department.
"What's unusual is the cinematography," he said.
Viets also brought up a 2004 ordinance that said marijuana should not be a high priority for the "limited resources" of the department.
The Police Department has faced criticism since footage of a drug raid on a Columbia man's home went viral on YouTube. The video captured the sound of Whitworth's pit bull, Nola, being fatally shot by a SWAT team of eight officers.
In first-hand accounts from officers, called incident reports, obtained Wednesday, an officer describes encountering the pit bull waiting for the officers at the front door.
“At this particular time the dog appeared to be a threat to officers as it barked and refused to vacate the structures threshold," the officer wrote. "I gave the dog a moment to retreat however it remained as a threat and an obstacle to the team and its entry and as a result I fired one-round from my Heckler & Koch 9mm submachine gun at the animal.”
The shot instead hit the paw of Whitworth's Welsh corgi.
The board plans to hear and review Columbia Police Department Chief Ken Burton 's presentation on the changes in SWAT policy June 9.
Missourian reporter Chelsea McGartland contributed to this report.