COLUMBIA — The Columbia Police Department's Feb. 11 SWAT raid was again a topic of discussion at the City Council meeting Monday night.
Donald Warren, one of the co-founders of CoMoCitizens, a group formed in response to the Feb. 11 raid, asked the council to make Chief Ken Burton's policy changes for the SWAT team binding.
Warren said Burton "has made significant policy changes" in the aftermath of the raid. By making Burton's policy changes binding, Warren said the council can help assure the public that there is less of a risk of a similar raid happening again.
He also asked the council to prohibit search warrants, which he sees as an inherently violent process, for nonviolent crimes. Using SWAT teams, especially for nonviolent crimes, not only puts innocent lives in danger, but endangers the police officers' lives as well, Warren said.
"The raid itself is what escalates the situation to out-of-control mode," Warren said.
Warren quoted "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America," an article by Radley Balko, as part of his speech. The article argues against the use of SWAT teams, calling them "paramilitary police units," especially for raids.
"These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors," Balko wrote in the article.
CoMoCitizens plans to meet with both Burton and the council in the future.
"This will be kind of an ice breaker," Erica Warren, Donald Warren's wife and co-founder of CoMoCitizens, said before the meeting.
Brian Oitker, another Columbia resident, was scheduled to speak before the council on police matters, but did not attend the meeting.
In other action, the City Council:
- Approved a resolution officially naming a planned garden in Stephens Lake Park the Darwin and Axie Hindman Discovery Garden. The $60,000 project, which will be funded by donations to the New Century Fund, was announced on April 12, which was Darwin Hindman’s last day as mayor. Former Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku spoke favor of the resolution, saying both Darwin and Axie Hindman have made significant contributions to the community. Council members unanimously passed the resolution.
- Unanimously approved the purchase of four central-city homes using Neighborhood Stabilization Act money from the federal government. The properties – at 106, 108 and 110 W. Sexton Road and at 102 E. Sexton Road – will cost $71,280. The city’s federal grant also includes $144,889 to rehabilitate the houses. The grant money needs to be spent by Sept. 1, City Manager Bill Watkins said. Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy has said the homes could be converted into affordable housing for people with disabilities. The city isn't using any form of eminent domain to purchase the properties, saying all the sales were voluntary, Watkins said.
- Approved the purchase of a house and property at 413 N. Fifth St. for $67,000. The city intends that the land eventually become part of the adjacent Douglass Park. Buying the home is consistent with the goals of the city’s parks master plan. The city plans to demolish the house that currently sits on the property. The city is considering turning the property into a shelter, playground or community garden, among other options, but wants to get residents' input before making any final decisions.