COLUMBIA — Columbia Police Officer Mark Brotemarkle will be the new director of safety for the Columbia Housing Authority.
He will work in this position on a part-time basis while continuing his work as an officer.
Brotemarkle will replace Dearl Logan, who has held the position since September 1997 but is retiring Jan. 2. Brotemarkle will oversee a department that “involves developing and maintaining an effective community safety and policing program that encompasses each public housing site operated by (the Housing Authority),” according to the official job description.
The safety department responds to crime in addition to looking out for the health and welfare of residents, said Phil Steinhaus, CEO of the Housing Authority.
"I think the big thing is to work toward the goal that Columbia has for a crime- and drug-free community," Brotemarkle said.
He said that drugs and crime are prevalent enough that they have become normal for some children. Brotemarkle hopes to break this cycle, he said, and have children grow up without experiencing this activity.
"I think that by working with residents, we can help improve their quality of life," Brotemarkle said. "Educate them by helping them realize that they have the opportunity to improve their lives."
Brotemarkle has worked for the city of Columbia for almost 18 years as a patrol officer, school resource officer and narcotics detective.
In 2008, he received attention after a video was posted on YouTube of him intervening in a fight at Hickman High School, in which he threw a female student to the ground. Brotemarkle later apologized for the incident.
From 1995 to 1997, he served on the Fourth Squad, a Columbia Police Department unit that emphasized increased community policing in high-crime areas. Through this involvement, he gained experience and familiarity with the public housing properties and their residents.
Brotemarkle has worked as a part-time safety officer for several months, which also gave him a chance to get to know area residents and begin building relationships with them, Steinhaus said.
Steinhaus said that Brotemarkle has a good reputation among public housing residents, and that, as a longtime Columbia resident, he knows the community very well.
“I’m excited to have a currently working officer to be interested in leading our safety department,” Steinhaus said. “It helps to build strong communication between us and the Police Department and to have the opportunity to improve our working relationship.”
The Housing Authority frequently relies on the police to respond to problems on its property, Steinhaus said. With Brotemarkle as the new director of safety, Steinhaus hopes there will be good coordination to respond effectively and to help reduce crime.
“The best way to promote safety and reduce crime in our neighborhoods is to partner with our residents,” Steinhaus said. “They can be our eyes and ears to report problems.”
Steinhaus said that because residents know the Housing Authority wants to keep the neighborhood environments safe, they are more willing to communicate with the safety department by reporting crime and requesting assistance.
The Housing Authority has 719 units of public housing for low-income families and individuals, Steinhaus said.
“We want people living in our neighborhoods to feel safe enough to have a garden or sit out front of their house,” he said. “To enjoy their neighborhood and feel safe with their neighbors.”