COLUMBIA — Funding for three new staff members for the Columbia Police Department is expected to be a part of the city manager's budget for fiscal 2014.
Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said earlier this week he had reviewed a summary of City Manager Mike Matthes' proposed budget, which includes the hiring of two police officers and a sergeant. This draft is scheduled to be released 9 a.m. Friday.
The unveiling follows a news conference Thursday in which the Columbia Police Officers' Association called for additional staff members to the city force.
Dale Roberts, the association's executive director, urged the Columbia City Council to embrace a proposal from Police Chief Ken Burton to hire additional officers.
"What we need are more feet on the street," Roberts said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Bernhard, who attended the news conference at Stoney Creek Inn, afterward confirmed that Burton had asked the city manager for 38 additional staff members made up of sworn officers and civilians.
Roberts questioned a youth anti-violence task force that Mayor Bob McDavid is expected to name at the next City Council meeting Aug. 5. The idea for a task force arose following public shootings such as the one in June at Tenth Street and Broadway.
"We don't have to look to a task force for answers; we already have them," Roberts said. "The one solution which we support and which we wholeheartedly endorse comes from Chief Burton."
Roberts said the city needs to hire additional officers to support Columbia's growth.
"Instead of adding the necessary number of officers the department has needed year by year, we have fallen into staffing disrepair," Roberts said.
Roberts said it is not uncommon for only nine or 10 officers to be patrolling the city's 65 square miles; Bernhard said the Police Department usually has 10 to 16 officers on patrol at any one time.
During the news conference, Roberts referred to a memo, which Bernhard said was written by Capt. Brian Richenberger, operating commander of the patrol division.
According to Richenberger's memo, it takes an officer an average of 45 to 50 minutes to handle a call, and 30 percent of all calls need an additional officer to provide assistance.
The memo states that "to adequately provide police services" the department would need between 19 and 30 additional officers.
Bernhard said it costs about $100,000 a year for a patrol officer when factoring salary, benefits, uniforms and equipment. After the first year, it goes down to roughly $80,000 for salary and benefits, he said.
Roberts said the Columbia Police Officers' Association represents about 80 percent of the active police officers within the department.
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