The Citizens Police Review Board will soon have access to all use of force reports filed by Columbia police officers.
Currently, the review board can only see appealed reviews of complaints against the police department. At the board's Wednesday meeting, Police Chief Ken Burton discussed the possibility of adding a board member to the police department’s Blue Team software so they can see more than just appealed reviews.
“A CPRB member having access (to Blue Team) would allow them to see use of force reports submitted by officers through the chain of command,” Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jill Schlude said in an email.
Burton said whenever an officer uses force, a mandatory report is filed. Use of force can include handcuffing or pointing a gun at a suspect.
Documents reporting an officer’s use of force are uploaded to the police department’s Blue Team software for a routine review. Burton said the use of force reports rarely result in complaints.
“Over the past two weeks, we’ve had 20 (internally generated) use of force reports,” Burton said. “Use of force isn’t necessarily a complaint.”
Reports include a description of the officer’s use of force based on the suspect’s actions. If the officer’s use of force is not justified, disciplinary action will be taken. Burton gets the last look at those files.
Burton said the department is willing to release any information to the board that doesn’t put officers’ confidentiality in danger.
“We want a more proactive role,” board member Stephen Alexander said to Burton. “(CPRB) doesn’t want to get into your business, (we) just want to try to help. The more we understand how (the police department) works, the better it is."
In addition to the Blue Team software, Burton discussed Columbia joining the Benchmark City Survey along with 32 other participating police departments nationwide. He was invited to add his department by fellow police chiefs from other units.
Compiled by the Overland Park, Kans., police department, the survey results can be found online and help show how Columbia's police performance compares to the rest of the nation.
"These chiefs sought to establish a measurement tool to help ensure their departments were providing the best service possible within their respective community," the survey states. "The survey provides a wide range of information about each department. With that information, the participating agencies can set better goals and objectives, and then compare their performance in the various areas.”
Survey results show that in 2011, Columbia had an above-average crime rate compared to other cities, especially with violent crimes.
Alexander reiterated the goal of the review board is to improve the relationship between citizens and police officers.
"Since 2010, I'd call the board a success," Burton said. "Everyone knows you're there. Citizens are aware. Officers have accepted it as a way of doing business. The board is having its desired effect."
In addition to discussing access to the Blue Team software, the board welcomed new members Thomas Hargrove and Daniel Jacob. Both Hargrove and Jacob are Columbia natives. Hargrove has two young children, and Jacob graduated from MU in 2009 with a degree in political science.