Columbia Police Officers' Association aims to support local officers

The Columbia Police Officers' Association is not officially affiliated with CPD. Tags: CPD

The 160 sworn officers of the Columbia Police Department do not have a union to look out for their best interests. Instead, they have the Columbia Police Officers' Association.

CPOA is a nonprofit, non-union membership organization that is not affiliated with the police department, Sgt. Joe Bernhard said.

"Missouri is a right-to-work state and thus does not have collective bargaining," Bernhard said.

Unions would have a contract with the state and be able to negotiate on behalf of the officers.

"Membership is voluntary, but most of the officers are members," Bernhard said.

One of the basic benefits of CPOA membership, Bernhard said, is that they provide legal services. When a police officer is sued, he or she can use their own representation furnished by CPOA.

CPOA came to the aid of former officer Rob Sanders when it called for Police Chief Ken Burton to step down and condemned the firing of Sanders. Sanders was fired after surveillance cameras captured him using excessive force against inmate Kenneth Baker in a holding cell in August 2011.

Sanders has since been charged with third-degree assault and his trial is ongoing. The next hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Keep Columbia Free President Mark Flakne said he does not like public sector labor unions.

Several posts on the Keep Columbia Free blog have highlighted CPOA's social media missteps, including a post about the armored vehicle CPD requested and was granted at a recent City Council meeting. The council approved the purchase of a Lenco Bearcat, an armored personnel carrier, for CPD, which will cost more than $200,000.

This measure received national attention due to a Facebook post by CPOA that Mayor Bob McDavid called racist.

"CPD wants a new armed vehicle," the Facebook post read. "Partly because when you drive up in one, people surrender and come out of the house BUT…if CPD rolled up in the new Mercedes 6x16, you KNOW all the boys in the hood would come running out the house — just to admire your ride! I say we roll up in style."

CPOA Executive Director Dale Roberts has since apologized for the post. Roberts runs the Facebook page.

"I like (Roberts) a lot," Flakne said. "He has made some mistakes. I don't think he is going to do that again."

Bernhard said that CPD and CPOA are working to get on the same page.

"(There was) no coordination between CPD and CPOA," Bernhard said about the armored truck controversy. "We have different messages and opinions."

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