Mid-Missouri’s Columbia is trying to address racial profiling and lingering bias within its police department by considering a forum on community policing. The city council voted Monday night to postpone a decision on the idea until the Aug. 21 meeting.
Two councilors backed the idea of paying consultants nearly $70,000 for more feedback on issues like how officers should conduct themselves and how many of them should be on the force.
Mayor Brian Treece told one of them, councilor Michael Trapp, that the plan should be pulled back. He said community outreach officers tell him they’re wearing out their boots walking the beat in crime hot spots.
“And yet we’re going to pull $33,000 out of a budget surplus for the community outreach unit to pay for a $70,000 conversation that we all agree we want to have?” Treece said.
Citizens spoke for about two hours about the proposed forum. Many were against the proposal.
“I’d like for us to take a step back and try to move forward with the input that we’ve had tonight, and take that and listen to it,” Treece said. “If we don’t, shame on us.”
Councilman Trapp, who supports the forum, says it’s a good way to make the case for a property tax increase for more officers.
“We have an under-resourced police department. I do not believe that under existing funds we’re going to be able to address that in any significant way,” Trapp said.
A study by the state Attorney General’s office showed black drivers were roughly four times as likely as their white counterparts to be stopped in Columbia during 2016. The number reflects an increase in the discrepancy from 2015.
In June, Columbia civil rights activists spoke at a city council meeting about what they considered a lack of progress when it comes to how African-Americans are treated during traffic stops. Tracy Wilson-Kleekamp of Race Matters, Friends said Police Ken Burton needs to be more up-front about the issue.
Brad Tregnago of KSSZ contributed to the story