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‘Gray area’ in CPD use-of-force policies addressed at Columbia CPRB meeting; no changes made until new chief is hired


On Thursday the Columbia Citizens Police Review Board hosted a work session to discuss the Columbia police Department's use of force policy. 

The goal of the meeting was to start a dialogue about the current policy and find out what updates need to be made.

According to documents provided on the city's website, the purpose of the policy to provide officers of the Columbia Police Department with guidelines for the use of less-lethal force or deadly force as a response to resistance or in carrying out lawful law enforcement objectives.

The policy was approved by former Chief Geoff Jones and was last revised in January 2021. Some believe it is time for a change. 

“I think there is an opportunity for us to expand and improve upon the language that is currently existing,” Columbia Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer D’Andre Thompson said. “I think one of the things we are maybe missing is the actual graphics kind of similar to visuals to give us a representation of how that may change or alter throughout the policy of what the different levels [of force] are. So I think there is some gray area that could be sure up a little more.” 

One example of the language the CPRB wants clarified is in section 300.2 of the use-of-force policy which reads: 

“The decision to use force requires careful attention to facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue.” 

The proportion of force is a concern brought up by some of those attending the meeting. 

“It doesn’t go far enough. It’s based on minimums and when it’s appropriate to use force and it doesn’t stress enough that they should be using the minimum appropriate amount of force, or that they should be deescalating as a first tactic,” Anthony Willroth, Vice President of Race Matters Friends, said. 

While the Columbia Police Department is gathering all the input from residents, they said during the meeting there will be no sweeping changes until a new police chief is hired. City spokeswoman Sydney Olsen said on Wednesday that the city is on track to fill the position by November.

“There isn’t much that they are trying to adjust or change probably because of the fact there is going to be a new person coming in who may have a different type of agenda,” Thompson said. 

In the meantime, Willroth believes Thursday night's meeting was a step in the right direction. 

I did like the mood of the room I appreciated some things like the officers wearing plain clothes and sitting on the same level as us," he said. "That all really helps make it feel like a productive meeting.”

The work session comes about four months after a video circulated online showing a man in front of Harpos getting punched in the face by a Columbia police officer, while another officer attempted to hold the man down.

Both officers were initially placed on leave before they left CPD amid an internal affairs investigation into the arrest of Lee Martin outside Harpo's. The internal affairs investigation ended in May following the resignation of the officers. A Boone County grand jury in July decided not to indict the officers.

The Columbia Police Officers Association held a presentation about the use of force in May.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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