COLUMBIA — The Columbia Police Officer's Association has appointed Dale Roberts as its first full-time executive director.
Roberts, 60, said the group needs a full-time manager because being a police officer is more complicated than ever.
"Nowadays, they got cameras, they are miked, their car cameras show what is in front and what's behind them .... there are just more issues officers have to deal with," Roberts said. "There are more and more lawsuits, and more and more issues arise over use of force and search and seizure."
The previous director of the association was Ashley Cuttle, an MU law student, and she worked part time. After Cuttle's departure, the board of the organization decided a full-time director was necessary.
Roberts wouldn't disclose what his salary will be.
"I'm a retired state employee," he said. "I teach at the university. I told them I'd work cheap, that I enjoy doing it."
The organization, which was founded in 1975 and is a nonprofit, has a board of seven and has always been member-run. Roberts said that of the 170 police officers in the department, maybe five were not members.
Although all of the board members are police officers, the Police Department's recent shift change to 12 hours on, 12 hours off, has left officers with very little time to do anything besides eat, sleep and take care of the most essential everyday tasks. That's where Roberts, as a full-time employee, comes in. He hopes to act as an advocate for the Police Department to the city and improve relationships among the police force and the community.
Roberts grew up in Columbia, graduated from Hickman High School and has worked almost entirely in law and government. He worked as assistant chief of investigations for the Missouri Department of Insurance, was director of alcohol and tobacco control in Missouri and was the chief judge of the Missouri Public Service Commission. Roberts also served in the military and later had a private law practice in Columbia.
Roberts has taught law classes as an adjunct professor at MU for the past 20 years and is currently teaching constitutional law for MU's Law Enforcement Training Institute. That's how he got to know most of the Columbia Police Officers Association's board members.
"Early last fall, one of them asked me if I'd be interested in doing some work for CPOA, and I said, 'Absolutely,'" he recalled.
Last year the state's Fraternal Order of Police asked for Chief Ken Burton's resignation. He remains in his position. The Columbia Police Officers' Association is a chapter of the order. Roberts said he wasn't aware of any plans to continue to pursue the chief's removal.
"I know it was a big issue last year, and it may come up," Roberts said. "It may be kind of resolved at this point. It is not an agenda item."
Police Chief Ken Burton said he had not had an opportunity to meet Roberts but was looking forward to doing so and working with the group.
"We couldn't find a more qualified or dedicated expert to be our liaison with the community and to guide our association through the complex issues we face," Andy Muscato, a Columbia police officer and the organization's director of community relations, said in a news release.
Roberts hopes to hold a three gun shoot out at a local range, where officers and locals would shoot a hand gun, a shot gun and a rifle in a competitive format. There are people that love to play golf with the officers, and there are people that would rather shoot with them, he said.