Recently, the police department was deemed inadequate to address the public safety and criminal issues in the city. The mayor proposed a tax increase to increase the size of the police department.
Simultaneously the city created an anti-violence commission to study, discuss and recommend actions to address the city’s violence problem. Among the membership of the committee are several black males, including an ex-police officer and a few councilpersons.
The committee’s composition appears deliberate on one hand, i.e., the large number of black males infers that violence is largely a black male problem rather than a citywide problem. The absence of the councilperson whose ward is reputed to be the most affected by the reputed violence and the reputed offenders is baffling.
An anti-violence committee may be a far better early step than an arbitrary increase in police officers at the taxpayers expense. Far more thought has to be given to the purpose, composition, duration and potential outcome. The present composition needs to be modified to include a much more significant and broader array of stakeholders.
Perhaps one outcome of such a committee might be recommendations regarding the police department, its size, behaviors, training etc. There is absolutely no reason to increase the size of the police department without the deliberations of a committee.
Certainly the city should not take these steps simultaneously. First things ought to be first.
William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.