COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A state senator has filed a bill meant to reduce crime in mid-sized cities by providing money for more police officers.
The bill filed by Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) would create a pilot known as the Community Crime Reduction Grant Program. The program aims to provide money to qualifying municipal police departments.
To qualify, a municipal police department must:
- Employ fewer than two officers per 1,000 people
- Serve a city with a population of 75,000 to 125,000 that is located in a first-class county.
The grant money each qualifying department receives would be used to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of hiring new officers needed to raise the ratio to two officers per 1,000 people.
It also will cover up to the entire cost of the new officers attending a seminar on fair and impartial policing and one on racial sensitivity at the University of Missouri Law Enforcement Training Institute.
This bill also creates the Community Crime Reduction Program Fund, which would hold funding for the program from various sources.
Rowden did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Columbia Police Department would qualify for the program because of its staffing levels. According to the Missouri Universal Crime Reporting Program, the Columbia Police Department employed 158 officers in 2018.
Based on the population, Columbia would need to employee 229 officers to have two officers per 1,000 people.
Columbia Police Officers' Association executive director Dale Roberts said using the national standard of 2.5 officers per 1,000 people, Columbia should have 308 officers. He said the department is only authorized to have 174 right now.
"This department would need to add about 134 officers overnight just to get to status normal," Roberts said.
Roberts said the Columbia Police Department does a good job with the resources it has, but needs more officers to fully serve the community.
"An agency that's understaffed is going to find itself constantly reacting to crime and trying to catch criminals instead of preventing crime," Roberts said.
Roberts said the CPOA fully supports Rowden's bill because it could greatly benefit Columbia.
"In light of our shortage of officers, we really have a public safety crisis here," Roberts said. "I think we've seen criminal activity in the community over the last year or so and that's a pretty good indication that the department needs more officers, and needs more feet on the street to address the problem we are experiencing."
Roberts said he worked with Rowden on a similar bill when Rowden was a part of the Missouri House of Representatives. Roberts said that bill did not gain much traction.
"I think with Sen. Rowden's position in the Senate this is likely to go somewhere," Roberts said.
Roberts didn't think this bill would gain much opposition but still could be an uphill battle over the money.
"Resources are limited and if this bill moves forward Sen. Rowden is going to have to find the funding to provide the funding to provide those officers," Roberts said. "Which means Sen. Rowden is going to compete with other interests on where the limited number of state dollars go."