Community policing was at the center of Wednesday night’s meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence.
Community policing involves police patrolling certain areas and getting to know residents, instead of merely responding to trouble, said Michael Trapp, co-chair of the task force.
Many task force members spoke in support of community policing, but each had different stipulations on how it should be carried out. Some didn’t hide the emotions they attached to the issue.
“When it comes to community policing, this was the first time we’d actually looked at it, and we were all emotionally charged,” task force member Tyree Byndom said. “I was literally shaking having this conversation, and I had to kind of just detach and share the facts and not share distortions.”
Ultimately, the group decided to involve Police Chief Ken Burton in the discussion.
“We chose to have the police chief come and present directly and have the chief know the importance of the conversation on community policing,” Byndom said.
Trapp said there is already community policing underway in Douglass Park and downtown Columbia, but he would like to see it implemented in other areas in the future.
“To do (more) community policing, we would need funds to hire more police officers, so it will be a process,” Trapp said. “As a task force we’ll make recommendations sometime before November.”
The idea of community policing has been a topic of conversation within the task force since it began in August 2013, Byndom said.
“It happened to be a consistent theme within many of our meetings,” Byndom said. “Our task is to curb community violence, so we are looking at everything possible to achieve that task.”
Byndom said the police department has known that community policing could be useful for a while, and it has been working to implement some strategies already.
“The police force has a report on how it can improve itself, and community policing was part of that report. They were given this more than a year ago, and so they’re already implementing those strategies,” Byndom said.
The task force is still in the process of solidifying the idea of what community policing means for Columbia.
“There’s so many different parts to it that we’re still trying to really understand the definition of it, the prerequisites to it, and the way to use it as a tool,” Byndom said.