Mayor Brian Treece announced Monday a violent crime task force made up of representatives of several local law enforcement institutions, following a recent spike of violent crime in the city and state.
The task force will include four members of the Columbia Police Department, four from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, one from MU Police and two from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Some of the task force members will be federally deputized. The federal government has stricter gun regulations than the state of Missouri, and the deputizing of officers and partnership with ATF, a federal agency, appear to be an attempt to circumvent the state’s looser regulations.
“Missouri is one of those states that really hamstrings local governments and cities because of the preemption ordinance,” Treece said, referring to a state law that says local ordinances can in no way supersede state law in “the entire field of legislation touching in any way firearms, components, ammunition and supplies.”
Columbia recorded 12 firearm homicides last year, the most since 2001, when Missouri State Highway Patrol data became available. That includes a period in September where five gun deaths occurred in only 10 days.
“We can’t enact additional laws when it comes to licensing or sale and transfer or insurance or background checks,” Treece said. “We need Jeff City to act on that. And if they’re not going to act, we’re going to use the full weight of our collective agencies to break and disrupt that cycle of violence.”
Gov. Mike Parson met with Treece, as well as the mayors of Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis on Nov. 25 as part of an ongoing series of conversations about violent crime.
Treece said that group had identified three major areas for improvement in their communities: improved witness protection, increased mental health intervention and improving the ability to prosecute cases at a federal level, provided Missouri’s regulations remain lax in comparison.
The mayor said Columbia Police have been working to improve mental health intervention by referring people to emergency rooms and working with a mental health liaison.
He added that the city has lobbied the governor’s office for additional resources to improve local officers’ ability to offer witness protection immediately, as it is enforced at a state level.
Supervising editor is Galen Bacharier.