Columbia Police Announce New Transparency Initiative

Feb 29, 2016

The Columbia Police Department announced Monday it will start holding quarterly news conferences to provide the public more frequent opportunities to hear about police activity. 

Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton said the increased communication is a response to calls for police departments across the country to be more transparent and open.

“Sometimes there are things that we don’t think would be that interesting, and the public and the media have a different idea,” Burton said. “So giving [the media] that opportunity to get in front of us every couple of months may help in that regard.”

Burton announced the new initiative at the end of a news conference where the department released its annual internal affairs report for 2015. The report detailed the number of times officers responded to resistance, the number of complaints of misconduct and compliments the department received from the community as well as the number of internal complaints initiated within the department.

All of these numbers were up slightly from 2014. Officers responded to resistance 350 times in 2015, up from 308 in 2014. The department received 41 complaints this past year alleging police misconduct compared to 19 in 2014 in addition to 51 internal complaints, up from 32 the previous year. The department also received 30 more compliments this year than in 2014.

Burton said that people are more aware of police conduct since clashes between the police and the community in Ferguson in 2014. “Those numbers don’t surprise,” he said. “At the same time, they’re not huge numbers. I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed about, but it is something that we watch, something that we monitor. We use those complaints and those compliments to do things better.”

Burton said he hopes to start the quarterly news conferences this March or June.