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Public talks to Columbia City Council about inequity, racial injustice


The Columbia City Council heard from several members of the public about their frustrations with police and support of protests during the council's Monday meeting at City Hall.

Five speakers came forward before the council to voice frustration on several topics.

Multiple people brought up an incident on June 8 where Columbia police responded to the area of College Avenue and Broadway where a man was having a mental health crisis.

Grady Harrington and Caitlin Cunningham told the council why they were frustrated with the police department's response with weapons.

"What I saw was completely inappropriate for what was taking place. We should all be ashamed," Harrington said. "Black man was at the center of it all clearly in distress, moments away from taking his own life with knives he held in both of his hands. The police's response to deescalating the scene was to keep a 'non-lethal shotgun' aimed at this man throughout this crisis."

The Columbia Police Department released a video Monday explaining how officers responded. According to the video, officers were positioned with a less-lethal shotgun that fires beanbag rounds.

Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said Monday the police department has two community health liaisons, or social workers, working with the department. Jones said both work for all law enforcement in Boone County, not just the police department.

The two workers are contracted through Burrell Behavioral Health. Their salary for work with CPD is funded through a grant to Burrell.

Several speakers also voiced support for the groups of people who have been protesting and marching through Columbia.

The topic of racism has dominated public discussion locally and around the nation following the death of George Floyd, and Monday's meeting was no different.

Two speakers voiced frustration with Columbia Police Officers Association director Dale Roberts, who has posted controversial items on the association's Facebook page in the past.

“We have warned you now for a year that there is a problem with the culture there," said Columbia resident Rebecca Shaw.

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, a Columbia resident and spokeswoman from Race Matters Friends, was critical of what she called a lack of response from officers.

"If there is only one police officer in Columbia Police Department who’s willing to call out Mr. Roberts, then we have a rotten agency,” Wilson-Kleekamp said.

ABC 17 News contacted Roberts on Monday night but did not immediately get a response.

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Sydney Olsen

Sydney Olsen reports in the evenings during the week and on the weekend.


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