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Columbia Police Officers Association asks for residents to lobby at City Council meeting


The Columbia Police Officers Association is asking residents to lobby on its behalf at the next City Council meeting on Monday.

The CPOA in a news release distributed Tuesday said it is “calling on the City Council to support law enforcement.”

The CPOA in its release said it's asking the City Council to “Encourage proactive policing efforts to get violent criminals off the streets” and “ensure the City of Columbia can attract and retain the best and brightest.”

"We are wanting change for our community. Violent crime is out of control," CPOA President Matthew Nichols said. "Our staffing levels are at an all-time low." 

Columbia has seen a string of violence this spring with several highly publicized cases including homicides. A woman died last week after being shot at her South Columbia home.

Nichols said the Associations wants the City to bring back it's Violent Crimes Task Force that was disbanded in 2021.

Columbia's Mayor Barbara Buffaloe said in an email the task force was dissolved following state legislation that was passed.

"The violent crimes task force was a partnership involving Columbia police, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies. It was dissolved in 2021 after the State passed the Second Amendment Preservation Act - which many police departments and police chiefs were against - which prohibited any state or local offices from cooperating with federal attempts on enforcing anything that would violate the right for people in the state to possess and bear arms," Buffaloe said in an email.

"We want city officials to reimplement the violent crimes task force that went away approximately two years ago," Nichols said. "Essentially city leaders said they were going to resolve the relationship based upon their interpretation of that state law." 

CPOA is also frustrated with the department's pay, though Buffalo says she hopes raises help bring in and keep officers.

"Over the last two years, the City and City Council’s priority is to invest in our most valuable resource, our employees.  This emphasis has resulted in police officers receiving a 3% raise in May 2022 and another 4.5% increase at the start of this fiscal year. The City Manager’s Office is still in negotiations with CPOA about the upcoming fiscal year and Council is eager to hear about what is agreed upon on - especially for starting pay that would help with recruitment," Buffaloe said in an email.

Nichols said that is only a portion of the City's retention issues.

"Our retention rate is just horrible, it is absolutely horrible, and we have to ask ourselves why," Nichols said. "Because the ones we are speaking to aren't leaving law enforcement. They are just going elsewhere, is it because of their pay and benefits, or is it because they don't feel like they are supported by city council members or elected leadership." 

The release states “CPD has lost too many officers and cannot attract enough new officers. This goes well beyond competitive starting pay and ongoing pay increases. It requires we insulate officers from agenda-driven activists with unbiased, external discipline review.”

Members of the Columbia Police Department have recently come under scrutiny after a video surfaced last month. The video showed an officer punch a man – Lee Martin --  in the face five times in front of Harpo’s while another officer tried to hold Martin down.

According to the arrest report, the officers involved in the incident are Gardner Pottorff and Keenen Shouse. Both officers resigned earlier this month, according to an attorney for the officers. The officers didn't think they'd get a fair internal investigation because of comments made by city leaders, attorney Don Weaver told ABC 17 News at the time.

The video prompted a use-of-force investigation by the Columbia Police Department and a criminal investigation by the Boone County Sheriff's Office. The internal affairs investigation by the city ended with the officers' resignation.

Cooper County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Phelps was picked as a special prosecutor in the criminal investigation last week. The appointment was made after Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Roger Johnson requested a special prosecutor because of his department's close relationship with the Columbia Police Department.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Ryan Shiner


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