Matthes, Fox continue to explain community policing report amid ongoing criticism

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A finalized version of the community-oriented policing report, edited to include public feedback, can be expected within 60 days, City Manager Mike Matthes said at a City Council meeting Monday night.

The council held a public hearing on the draft of the report during the meeting. The report was released in August, and a public hearing was initially slated for the Sept. 4 council meeting. It was rescheduled for Monday after the meeting stretched into the early hours of Sept. 5.

Lynn Maloney, a member of local advocacy group Race Matters, Friends, offered feedback about the draft Monday night.

“The fact that it doesn’t include any information from vehicle stop data is insulting,” Maloney said.

Steve Calloway, who formerly served on the Mayor’s Task Force for Community Violence, shared his perspective as a member of the African-American community in Columbia.

“There’s an issue of trust when it comes to the police,” Calloway said. “We all agree that we want to call the police when there’s an emergency, but we do that cautiously.”

Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp agreed that community policing should be focused on trust and that this is missing from the draft of the report.

“The missing piece centers around rebuilding trust with the African-American community,” Trapp said.

The timeline for implementing the report’s recommendations was also criticized by both the public and Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas. Thomas stated that he would not support a tax increase in April or August, as proposed by the timeline, because it would be “too soon.”

Matthes and Columbia Police Sgt. Robert Fox have been working on the report for five months, and included input from seven community meetings held between May and June. The report states that the department is ready to start community policing, but would need more money and staff in order to do so.

“The biggest issue I saw in this report was the lack of capacity in the department,” Fox said. “Basically, the city’s outgrown the department since 2008.”

Fox recently raised similar points in an op-ed for the Columbia Business Times in which he wrote about the “silent pro-police majority” in Columbia.

Race Matters, Friends president Traci Wilson-Kleekamp criticized Fox’s language, writing in an email to the council that he “invokes a tone of condescension, veiled threats and (a) tone of disrespect that is very discomforting.”

Before the meeting, Thomas responded to these concerns.

“The community policing report fails to engender a collaborative spirit between the police and the community,” Thomas wrote in an email shared with the Missourian. “The report and especially the CBT article represent an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, which is the antithesis of community policy.”

During the meeting, Thomas adopted a more optimistic tone.

“I do think that this process has moved us forward,” he said. “But I won’t downplay the fact that I was disappointed in some aspects of the report.”

The finalized version of the report will include the following revisions:

A statement of philosophy that more accurately represents what the community wants from community policing.A change in tone when talking about the media. The report currently argues that local news outlets sensationalize crime and make “editorial decisions to be anti-police.”An emphasis on the respect needed between officers and the community.A revised timeline that focuses on recommendations other than the proposed tax increase ballot issue.

The final version will also address any feedback from an online survey included in the report.

Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart: news@columbiamissourian.com, 882-5720.

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