Monday’s meeting of the Columbia City Council meeting demonstrated a disconnect between city leaders on moves within the police department.
And the at times tense meeting — which ended early Tuesday — preceded City Manager Mike Matthes’ resignation by less than a day. Matthes will step down at 5 p.m. Wednesday, the city said in a news release.
At the end of the long meeting, Mayor Brian Treece asked Matthes and Police Chief Ken Burton about proposed changes to the city’s community policing plan. The changes would get rid of the current Community Outreach Unit, which focuses on four geographical areas, and spread those officers throughout the city’s eight beats to facilitate the change to community policing ordered by the city council.
Under community policing, beat cops take time to form relationships with residents instead of just responding to calls for service and crimes. Matthes and Burton say it’s a resource-intensive approach and the new plan is a way to implement the model with current staffing levels.
Some of Burton’s and Treece’s answers to Treece’s questions demonstrated apparent confusion in rolling out the plan.
“When was your first meeting that you presented this concept to the city manager?” Treece asked Burton.
“I don’t recall the date,” Burton said. “I would have to look — we have monthly meetings.”
Treece asked Burton to check his calendar and Burton replied he did not know the exact date.
Matthes said he disapproved with the department changing the name of the Community Outreach Unit and voiced his thoughts before the internal memo was sent out Oct. 25 by Deputy Chief Jill Schlude. ABC 17 News broke the news of the plan based on Schlude’s memo Nov. 11.
During Monday’s city council meeting Treece asked Matthes and Burton when the name change disapproval was communicated. Matthes and Burton gave conflicting answers.
“City Manager said before and you said after,” Treece said. “So was it before or after Deputy Schlude’s email came out?”
Burton said he did not know about Matthes’ disapproval until last week.
Treece in a statement Tuesday thanked Matthes for his service but declined an interview until next Monday after the council discusses the resignation. The council will meet in a special session at noon to discuss a severance with Matthes and other issues.