COLUMBIA — After almost three hours of public hearing and debate Monday night, the Columbia City Council voted to table the next step toward community policing for the Aug. 21 council meeting.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas and Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp presented a proposal to the council for a $60,320 contract with the Heart of Missouri United Way to facilitate public engagement in community policing and to design and organize a public forum to discuss "staffing levels, officer safety and morale, and community policing."

The move toward community-oriented policing instead of problem-oriented policing stemmed from months of open discourse on how to address racial profiling and latent bias within the Columbia Police Department. In February this year, the City Council passed a resolution declaring the need to "conduct a community engagement process for policing" in Columbia.

Some community members that have been strong advocates of the city's move toward community policing claimed that the proposal failed to include enough people in the planning process.

Judy Hubbard, a Columbia resident and a neighborhood outreach specialist with the city, said the current plan is missing involvement from people that are going to be most affected.

"Families that have lost their young ones to shootings, knifing and to prisons, those are huge stakeholders, and somehow, we need to bring them into this conversation," Hubbard said. "We need to bring in the segment of our city that really needs to be heard. Once again, we are making decisions without them really having a strong voice." 

Columbia resident John Clark said the proposal fails to include a key point from the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence from 2014 — the trust between law enforcement and the people they protect.

"The community needs to decide what kind of policing it wants," Clark said. "It's not the job of the police to decide that."

In a letter addressed to the council, Tara Warne-Griggs, a member of Race Matters, Friends, said, "Throwing money at a dysfunctional police department will not bring about community policing.

"We do NOT need a community-driven process to improve morale and officer safety," she added. "We need improved management and leadership accountability to improve those things, not more money thrown at them."

In response to comments that the current plan failed to include diverse voices, Thomas stressed that this is a community engagement process to design a meeting, and the process doesn't have to end with the forum. He said approval of this proposal would create opportunities for a broader community engagement. 

Dale Roberts, the executive director of the Columbia Police Officers Association, said the proposal would impose an additional burden on a police department that is already suffering from a lack of resources and demanding hours.

The proposed one-and-a-half-day United Way event — initially scheduled for the first week of December — would involve several sessions and speakers addressing issues facing the city, according to previous Missourian reporting.

According to a proposal prepared by United Way, New Chapter Coaching and Menifield and Associates, the consultants would aim to engage and coordinate community stakeholders in a collaborative planning process, facilitate the public forum and evaluate participants to identify what kind of policing the city wants and to produce action steps.

United Way would also produce a post-forum report with outcomes and recommendations by Nov. 30.

The process would involve 69 hours from city staff and 464 hours from a consultant with an hourly rate of $130.

According to a report published on Thomas' website, most of the 30 stakeholder groups showed support for community policing.

In addition to the $60,320 contractual cost, the city could spend up to $10,000 to cover expenses for hosting the forum such as speaker fees and food, according to a council memo.

According to the proposal, the city would be paying United Way about $10,000 a month for seven months — July until the end of November — until completion of the project.

The city has secured and applied for several sources of outside funding: $1,000 from the Community Foundation of Central Missouri; $2,000 from the University of Missouri Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity; $5,000 from Columbia Public Schools; and a $5,000 Boone County Community Health Fund's Strategic Opportunities grant.

Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer, who voted against tabling the matter along with Mayor Treece, agreed that the current proposal is flawed, but the city needs to take action and move forward.

The Broadway Hotel TIF

The council also approved an agreement between the city and The Broadway Lodging, LLC, to cover the $10,000 cost of reviewing the hotel's tax incremented financing application to build a second tower at The Broadway Hotel.

The council voted unanimously in May to authorize a proposal to develop 73,000 square-feet property on 1104 East Walnut Street, immediately north of The Broadway Hotel.

The TIF arrangement is expected to bring in $2 million out of $20 million of the total cost of the development.

City consultant Tony St. Romaine said the TIF approval process would likely be a five-to-six-month process that will involve thorough review by the Tax Increment Financing Commission as well as a public hearing on the application, according to previous Missourian reporting. After a review and public hearing, the commission will make a recommendation to the City Council in October or November.

Supervising editor is Sky Chadde.

  • Public Life reporter for spring 2017, studying investigative/data journalism; reach me at sk4h7@mail.missouri.edu

Recommended for you