COLUMBIA — Bleak.
That's how an independent consultant's report characterized the state of the Columbia Police Department.
City Manager Mike Matthes and Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton spoke at a news conference Tuesday morning at City Hall to address the findings of an independent review of the Police Department.
They also discussed what changes would be implemented within the department as a result of several serious issues raised in the report, which was written by Eric Anderson Associates after a three-month review of the department. That review included 130 interviews with the department's sworn officers and civilian employees and with members of the City Council, the Citizens Police Review Board and the public.
Matthes quoted from the report: "Officer morale is regularly identified as having gotten worse. The supervisory culture is approaching toxicity. Internal communication is confused and inadequate."
Matthes called the report "a wake-up call to the senior leadership of the police department."
He said Anderson's findings represented the sum total of years of increasing public dissatisfaction with the Police Department. Matthes said community satisfaction had slumped from 81 percent in 2005 to 69 percent when the review was conducted.
"In a real sense, the community has lowered the report card of the Police Department from a B to a D over six years," Matthes said.
Matthes said "a number of high-profile failures," combined with poor communication from leadership, were the root of the problem.
The report lists 12 findings that highlight ongoing problems within the department:
Although many of the problems listed in the report were first cited in a 2006 review conducted under former Police Chief Randy Boehm, Burton took full responsibility for the failings in his department.
"As chief of police, I own it," Burton said during the news conference.
Still, Burton said that morale is "a function of the entire command staff" and that he would rely heavily on those around him to create a better work environment. He said the report confirmed what he had suspected for the past few years: that he had not had 100 percent cooperation from his senior staff.
The report offered 14 recommendations for making improvements in the department. They include:
Matthes said he intends to develop "a road map" over the coming months to implement all 14 recommendations in the report. Funding, however, could be an issue when it comes to increasing salaries or paying for a new headquarters.
Burton said that personally he is taking this opportunity to make a renewed commitment to citizens and to the police officers working in his ranks. He said he hopes to eventually make the Columbia Police Department a model for others.
The city paid $45,000 for the report.