The city of Columbia is spending $45,000 to conduct an outside review of its police department. This comes after a year in which the department has seen a host of issues, including the firing of officer Rob Sanders, as well as dueling local groups focusing on Chief Ken Burton.
Since taking the helm of the department in 2009, Burton has implemented controversial sensitivity training for officers, and dealt with several inter-department personnel issues, including the resignation of his deputy chief. The study is being conducted by Eric Anderson Associates of Washington state.
City Councilman Jason Thornhill says the review, which has already begun, is meant to give an overall look at how the department operates.
“Let’s take the opportunity to step back and see if we’re doing everything we can to have the best department so the public can trust the department and so the folk in it can feel good about their jobs."
Executive Director of the Columbia Police Officers Association Ashley Cuttle said in an email that while she can’t speak for the concerns of the entire department, the officers she deals with have key issues they’d like addressed. These include inconsistent management practices, unclear policies and unfounded claims against the officers’ professionalism.
Thornhill says the hope is that the findings will help the department meet their goals. A report is expected by late February.