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City of Columbia may cut jobs, end school resource officer contract

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The City of Columbia will cut 78.5 jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause an economic slowdown, pending approval by elected officials.

The city announced the cuts in a news release Thursday, saying 11 of the positions are currently filled. The cuts will reduce personnel costs by $3.8 million, according to the release.

"With the uncertainties of revenues in the next six months to year, these reductions are prudent to ensure the financial health of the city," City Manager John Glascock said in the release.

Glascock said the city carefully weighed the decisions because of their impact on workers and their families. The cuts also mean other city workers are asked to take on additional work, often at no cost, he said.

The city council must approve the job cuts, according to the release.

Glascock will also recommend to the city council that the city end its contract with Columbia Public Schools that puts police officers in some district buildings.

"Some or all" of the officers, known as school resource officers, will be moved to the Columbia Police Department's Community Outreach Unit, according to the release. The contract expires June 30.

"In light of conditions posed by the health emergency, CPD determined that transitioning some or all of the SRO positions to the Community Outreach Unit better serves Columbia's interest in community policing," the city said in the release. "Community Outreach Officers regularly connect with students both at school and out of school, as they circulate through neighborhoods."

The SRO concept has come under some criticism amid protests against police violence after George Floyd's death. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri has urged schools to drop the officers.

Steve Sapp, City of Columbia's spokesman said the decision to reallocate the SRO's to the Community Outreach unit has been discussed for several weeks and was not based on the statement this past weekend by the ACLU.

Sapp said the decision was partially driven by the current health issues related to modified school attendance this fall. He said it was also driven by budget constraints.

"We feel more officers in the community, " Sapp said. "Something numerous years of past community surveys and councils have told us, better serve our residents."

Michelle Baumstark, CPS spokeswoman said the district contacted the Columbia Police Department in regards to a renewal of their current agreement on June 10, but the district did not receive a response until just a few days ago. 

“Obviously there was, you know, a little bit of a surprise as we had been asking about moving forward with the agreement,” Baumstark said.

Baumstark said the district has had a long standing relationship with CPD officers in school buildings and that despite some discussion nationwide about police officers in schools, Baumstark said at CPS the SRO’s were great partners. 

The current SRO structure was one at three of the high schools and one splitting time at two middle schools.

Baumstark said that the SRO’s provided a safety and security element within the school buildings, so possibly not having them there is something the districts will have to discuss moving forward. 

“Parents may have questions and concerns as well,” Baumstark said. “For us… we're going to continue to have those discussions, and certainly want to express our absolute appreciation and gratefulness for the relationships that those individuals have built in their buildings.”

Sapp said that reallocating the SRO's to the Community Outreach Unit still allows officers to interact with a broader range of students in Columbia.

City leaders are at work on the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The city council will hold a public work session on the budget Aug. 13.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

Amber Tabeling

Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.

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