The discussion of a proposal for how to further train Columbia police officers in community policing strategies will be extended to another day.
The Columbia City Council considered a training program from the Citizens Police Review Board that was designed by members Carley Gomez and Heather Heckman-McKenna on Monday night.
According to previous Missourian reporting, the program is based on three initiatives: New Orleans’ Ethical Policing is Courageous, or EPIC; the Georgetown University Innovative Policing Program’s Project ABLE; and the Police for Tomorrow program developed for the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C.
The initiative would begin as a one-year, competitive program for new police officers with less than two years of experience. Eighteen officers would be selected based on interviews and their interest in community policing and in leadership positions.
It would feature monthly workshops focusing on topics related to community-oriented policing, including trauma-informed policing, systemic racism, LGBTQIA+ safe spaces, overcoming implicit bias, Columbia history, juvenile brain development, over-criminalization and mass incarceration.
Mayor Brian Treece had several questions about the proposal. He asked Gomez, who attended the council meeting, why the program would select only officers in their first two years with the department.
“Why them?” he asked.
Gomez said that the idea of focusing on newer officers comes in part from the Police for Tomorrow program and that the review board would be open to talking about changing the requirement.
Treece also wondered whether officers should be given financial incentives for participating in the program and whether it should be part of the council’s bargaining discussions with the Columbia Police Officers Association.
Karl Skala, Third Ward council member, said he would be more comfortable with further examining the proposal to see if it would be “a positive addendum” to Columbia Police’s initiatives.
Betsy Peters, Sixth Ward council member, agreed.
“I’d like to know what the Police Department is doing already,” she said. “I’d like to see if we could integrate this with that.”
Peters also wondered if the program could be expanded to include more than 18 officers.
Gomez noted that the curriculum of the program “is not a form of training for action. It is an educational service for city staff — police officers ... People in the community want prolonged discussion with the police and want a place to discuss and hash out these conversations.”
Andrea Waner, second ward council member, who was elected to her seat in April, compared the proposal to a Building Inclusive Communities workshop.
“It is similar in that way that it is additive to your training and that it is an educational piece,” Waner said, adding that she’d like the council to ponder what next steps would look like.
The proposal presented to the council says officers interested in the program would be subject to interviews with a three-person panel that includes a city official, a police representative and a community member. Once participants completed the monthly workshops, they would be required to complete a capstone project of their choosing.
Columbia Police Officer’s Association President Matt Nichols said his group likes the plan.
“We want to do what’s right by our community members,” Nichols said. “These sort of trainings and these ideas and really thinking about the content of the resources that are out there — we’re on board with. We appreciate it.”
Treece asked that a work session on the topic be scheduled and that Police Chief Geoff Jones offer feedback on the curriculum, whether the program complies with police accreditation requirements and what the manpower costs would be.