Columbia schools to receive visits from Columbia Police Department Patrol Division

Thirty out of 34 schools will be affected by the new program.

The Columbia Police Department announced a new program last week that will increase police presence in public and private schools. Officers working in the Patrol Division will randomly visit each school within their route, according to a news release from the department.

The news release explains the goal of the program, which is to enhance safety in and around the schools by providing increased officer presence and create better familiarity with school staff, administrators, students and campuses.

The School Visitation Program was developed in conjunction with the opening of a police substation at Jefferson Junior High School. Officers can complete paperwork there while on patrol. The substation opened following two incidents in the fall: a lockdown due to crime in the neighborhood and the robbery and assault of a teacher after school hours.

“It seems to be going really well so far," Columbia public schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said. "We’d like to expand it to all schools."

Baumstark said the substation does not interfere with the daily function of the school or with students’ education.

Of the 34 schools in the district, 30 will be affected by the new CPD program. The remaining four schools have a school resource officer. Patrol officers will not visit any schools with permanently stationed SROs.

“We are very grateful for this program," Baumstark said. "It’s a great way to have increased police presence. We are 100 percent in support of this. We don’t think it’s a bad thing to have them there. We want them there in a positive aspect, not in a negative aspect.”

The district has had a desire for additional police in schools for some time. Funding cuts left the district with four SROs.

“A number of years ago, all secondary schools, grades six through 12, used to have an SRO," Baumstark said. "The challenge now is not enough trained officers that are available."

Junior Stephanie Haag went to high school with a permanently stationed SRO. Lockdowns and bomb threats still occurred despite the extra safety.

“Having an SRO there did not prevent anything from happening," Haag said. "It’s good to know people who have experience with emergency situations will be around though when bad things happen."

CPD declined interviews concerning specific details of the School Visitation Program, but MU Police Department spokesman Brian Weimer said it will not involve MU’s campus.

“I think it’s kind of important that police make their presence known — not necessarily on campuses, but in the community as well, just not in an overbearing way,” senior Catherine Chappell said.

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