Late in former police chief Ken Burton’s tenure, a common theme emerged: Columbia officers had low morale.
A 2016 survey from the Columbia Police Officers Association showed that about 78 percent of its members were unsatisfied with the department’s working conditions. In December, Burton resigned after city council members’ frustration with him — including with his work habits — “came to a head,” Mayor Brian Treece said at the time.
But, with a new man in charge, interim Police Chief Geoff Jones, it appears that members of the officers association have changed their tune, according to survey numbers the association released Wednesday.
The swing in sentiment can be attributed to Jones reversing some of Burton’s policies, including on use of force and pursuit, said Dale Roberts, the association’s executive director.
According to the association’s numbers, 90 percent of those surveyed reported feeling that working conditions have improved or significantly improved since Jones took over.
In 2016, 78 percent of officers surveyed said their morale had gotten worse or significantly worse.
In the new survey, 76 percent of those surveyed said their morale had improved or significantly improved, according to the association’s release.
Roberts said the association would not release specifically how many of its 141 members had participated in the survey until its board reviewed the results. More than half answered, though, he said.
In a Q&A with the Missourian, Jones said he was changing things so officers could be more autonomous.
“I have been taking steps to get us to the point where officers can make decisions and engage people, be accountable for their areas, feel empowered to make decisions that I don’t know if they would have felt prior to me coming in here,” he said.