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Columbia police present recommended improvements for the department

The Columbia Police Department is looking at ways to reduce crime and build public trust.

The police department presented a report to members of the Columbia City Council Monday on 21st Century Policing within the department.

In 2014, Pres. Obama commissioned a task force to look at 21st Century Policing. Six members of CPD took the task force’s report and amended it to fit the local department.

In the 131 page report, it said CPD has, “a problem with communication, trust and low morale for the majority of department employees.” The report said that appeared to be a long-standing culture with the department.

In the 2015 City of Columbia Employee Engagement Survey, the police department scored lower than any other city department in almost every category, according to the report.

In the survey, CPD had the lowest morale compared to all other departments.

“It’s hard to keep high morale when your job is dealing with people that are never at their best,” Chief Ken Burton with the Columbia Police Department said. “People don’t call us when things are going right. People call us when things are going wrong. And so when you deal with people like that over and over again it’s tough on you mentally.”

ABC 17 asked Chief Burton if anything was being done to improve morale.

“I don’t know what I would do about that,” Burton said. “I mean you have to make sure that you’re doing what you can internally. But like I said they’ve got good working conditions. I think it’s fair pay for the job and to the extent that we can we try to communicate. But again, it never makes everybody happy.”

The President’s task force created six pillars in the report. Chief Burton assigned six lieutenants to take a look at recommendations within the pillars for CPD.

One of the biggest focuses was the recommendations to implement full community policing. Although CPD expanded its community outreach last month, the department said it does not have nearly enough staff to implement full community policing.

“Ultimately the solution is going to be to get a revenue stream sufficient to at least make a dent, a serious dent, in this whole idea about having enough folks so that we can institute a policy of community policing,” Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said.

The city council has talked about ways to fund the hiring of more officers, according to Skala.

“We’ve talked about the fact of bringing the proposition back to the public in terms of how we may finance more police officers than the three per year that we have already been doing for the past three years,” Skala said.

Several other recommendations came up in the presentation Monday, including the task force’s recommendation to hire officers that reflect the community they work in. CPD said that has been a challenge for the department for a long time. But Chief Burton said a group of 19 recruiters were working to hire diverse employees.

You can find CPD’s full report here.

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