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Community violence task force updates on enforcement changes

The Columbia Police Department went through federal training and expanded its unit for community policing, according to a staff update given Friday.

The Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence met as part of a series of updates to its 2014 recommendations. The group was formed in 2013 to find ways to reduce violent crime, and submitted its findings the next year, breaking them down into four categories – prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry.

Friday’s meeting focused on “enforcement.” Lieutenant Geoff Jones, the head of the new Community Outreach Unit, answered questions audience members had about changes to the department since late 2014. The task force called for a stronger, more trusting relationship between the department and the community. ABC 17 News reported earlier the growth of the COU to six officers starting next week, and CPD receiving the Department of Justice’s procedural justice training.

Irwin Schneider, president of the Columbia Neighborhood Watch program, said he supported the new community outreach program.

“Find ways to reach out to the communities and folks who may have problems, whoever they may be, and help them deal with it on a level other than strictly law enforcement,” Schneider told ABC 17 News.

Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp, a co-chair of the task force, said the police department will announce the neighborhoods officers will work in next week. The department looked at overlapping maps of crime and poverty rates, along with other data, to determine the list.

ABC 17 News first reported that the department ended its Traffic Unit to staff the COU. Schneider said the police department needed the money for more officers to appropriately deal with the routine call log, as well as staff a unit for community policing.

“What they feel is more important, now, is having a community outreach unit, and hopefully deal with violent crime by having police more involved, and also getting the communities more relating to the police department.”

Lt. Jones said he hoped community policing, like the work the COU hopes to accomplish, will become the norm for police work in the city, instead of a special unit.

The task force will meet on January 12 to discuss “re-entry” programs dedicated to reducing recidivism and crime.

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