Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones on Friday said the arrest of a Smithton Middle School student in January came as a result of an investigation that "was not thorough."

In a statement following a Missourian report on the results of an internal investigation of the incident, Jones acknowledged that a mother's complaint that her daughter was racially profiled turned up shortcomings. His department is in the process of "ensuring future investigations are complete and the involved employee’s performance improves," the statement said.

Jones said "the disciplinary process has not yet been finalized," but added that it "is designed to modify behavior through a range of administrative actions."

Tony Ash, a school resource officer who covers all six middle schools in the Columbia public school district, arrested two students Jan. 10 after being called to Smithton to help quell a melee that left another student injured. 

Afterward, Kandas Holmes-Barnes, the mother of one of the arrested students, filed a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, contending that her daughter was targeted because she is black. The 14-year-old, who spent a night in juvenile detention, was released after police received exculpatory evidence. Afterward, she suffered from clinical depression, according to previous Missourian reporting.

The Commission on Human Rights confirmed that it closed the complaint against the Columbia Police Department on Friday. The commission said it lacked jurisdiction.

But the commission's referral of the complaint to the police department triggered the internal affairs investigation. Jones said that his department is taking the results seriously. "We consistently strive to improve and have found several opportunities as a result of this investigation," the chief's statement said. 

Jones said the department will work to be "more involved in the restorative practices and pre-event problem solving with students" through new training. He noted that his department is seeking a new contract with the school district for school resource officers. 

In a July letter to the Columbia School Board President Helen Wade, Mayor Brian Treece and members of the Columbia City Council signaled they will be asking the school district to pay "a fair share" of the cost of providing police officers to the schools. The letter said that the current 50% reimbursement does not cover the costs of the police services. It also said that, in addition to quelling violence at schools, officers should be involved in efforts to prevent it.

  • Education reporter, fall 2019. Graduate student. Reach me at tran.nguyen@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5700

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