COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Jill Schlude has been selected as the next Columbia police chief.
Columbia City Manager De'Carlon Seewood announced Schlude as the new chief at a news conference on Wednesday.
Schlude will serve as the department's first female police chief. She has served as the assistant police chief in Columbia since 2019. She has been with the Columbia Police Department since 2005. She started as a patrol officer, became a sergeant, and then eventually deputy chief under Ken Burton.
According to a news release, Schlude's annual salary will be $165,000. According to online city records, Schlude had a base salary of $101,467 as assistant police chief in fiscal year 2023.
Schlude will be sworn in at the Columbia City Council meeting on Dec. 4. Her husband Roger, also a CPD employee, plans to retire.
She will take over for Geoff Jones who retired in August. Since then, Matt Stephens has been serving as the interim chief.
During a news conference, Schlude said she wants to begin making some hires and internal promotions and then get to work on crime reduction and prevention plans. She said one of the other finalists for the Columbia police chief position passed along contact information for people involved in crime prevention strategies. Schlude says she studies police strategy but is looking forward to getting people together to see what works.
"I like to read about things, but I think seeing something on the ground is completely different," Schlude said. "So if we can find some things that we're interested in, I'd like to see us go, and when I say us I mean more than just the police department, let's go see how that goes in real life."
Schlude said she also wants to reinforce how the police department can help the community.
"I think every interaction we have with somebody, whether it's going to be an arrest situation or they want advice on how to deal with a situation, our interaction with them is very very meaningful," Schlude said. "They're going to remember it. It dictates how they feel about the police department. And I think that's something that the officers remember, but that's something that gets lost when you're going call to call to call."
D'Andre Thompson, the city's diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said he feels Schlude's existing connections could help.
"I think it will help a lot because I believe the incoming chief has a lot of relationships that have been built and forged in our community and I think that helps ensure that there is continuity as the department continues to evolve and move forward," Thompson said. "I think that the city is making a lot of great progress in that area of evolution and bringing folks together. It's changing the trajectory of our community."
Another priority Schlude highlighted is officer retention.
"Officer wellness is going to become very very important. We have to make sure we are taking care of the folks who are doing these calls all day long because they are seeing a lot of really thought things and the cumulative effect of that, I don't think we have even scratched the surface of realizing what that is yet," Schlude said.
The city spent more than $60,000 on the search firm that helped find the next police chief. The city received 18 applications and narrowed it down to four finalists. The search involved several small group discussions and hosting the four finalists at city hall last month. Of the four, Schlude was the only finalist who worked at the Columbia Police Department. City Manager De’Carlon Seewood said he feels the search was justified.
"What you want to be able to do is you want to show validity that the decision that you made was the right decision," Seewood said. "So, having somebody from the outside come in and say 'OK, we're going to do a search, we're going to help you get people from around the country who wants to be the chief,' and we have a process and once we stood up that process she outshined and she showed she was the candidate."
The city's mayor said Schlude's connections throughout the city helped her stand out from other candidates.
"There are pros and cons to internal versus external hires. One of the best pros that we have is that Jill has existing relationships within our community and so to be able to build upon that foundation and to make new relationships with those that maybe she hasn't had in the past she only has upwards to go on that," Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe said.
The hire also has community leaders who know Schlude feeling optimistic.
"I'm excited that Jill has been given this opportunity to lead because she really cares about the community," former mayoral candidate Tanya Heath said. "I've heard her speak for years at different groups and you know there is a genuineness and authenticity for what she wants for Columbia going forward."