Some Columbia residents weren’t as optimistic as the City Council about a resolution to support community-oriented policing at a council meeting Monday night.
The council unanimously voted to pass the resolution, which directs City Manager Mike Matthes to design a community-oriented policing program and transition plan for the Columbia Police Department.
But some Columbia residents expressed their concerns before the vote. Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, president of Race Matters, Friends criticized conversations that focus on the logistics of the program rather than leadership.
“It feels like every time we talk about community policing, there’s a little bit of a distraction, this thing about staffing and money,” Wilson-Kleekamp said. “The issue is to transform your leadership to get different outcomes ... to ameliorate the disparities because of the historical neglect of people of color and poor communities. My challenge to you is to focus on how do we transform the leadership.”
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said that although he agreed with Wilson-Kleekamp, the costs of the program cannot be ignored.
“The costs are somewhat secondary, but the costs are real as well,” he said. “If you’re talking about 120 officers, that’s probably never gonna happen in my lifetime.”
The vote to pass the resolution followed City Manager Mike Matthes’ selection of Sgt. Robert Fox to lead the community-oriented policing effort. Matthes made the announcement in an email Saturday.
While Fox’s selection comes with a 5 percent salary increase, there was no word on whether other officers will receive salary increases as well.
Other residents called for accountability in how community policing is implemented.
“I expect to see a schedule of accountable check-ins bi-monthly for every work stream,” resident Rachel Taylor said. “I expect the city to treat this project with the respect it deserves.”
First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin acknowledged the criticism raised by the attendees and noted that the current resolution could be revised down the road.
“It is a living document,” he said. “It is not written in stone.”
As stated in the resolution, Matthes is required to present a completed plan for the community policing program to the council by Aug. 31.
In addition to voting on the resolution, the council also voted unanimously to approve a $420,000 plan to replace water distribution infrastructure along Bryant and Switzler streets. With this approval, the city will begin to finalize the proposed plan.
The repairs are expected to last four to six months and to take place during the summer construction period. They will replace roughly 1,700 feet of aging water mains and surrounding piping and replace and add new fire hydrants.
The council also agreed to move forward with the process of specifically prohibiting unsupervised animal tethering. The city has had trouble enforcing current ordinances and getting successful prosecutions.
Director of Health and Human Services Stephanie Browning recommended using additional language to clarify that “unsupervised” tethering is prohibited. This would allow officers to clearly see when an animal is tethered unlawfully, she said.
Missourian reporters Hannah Archambault and Claire Harman contributed to this report.