© 2024 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Columbia police face staffing shortages


The number of officers out with COVID-19 and the number of police job vacancies have been updated. The numbers originally provided by the Columbia Police Department were incorrect.

The Columbia Police Department is stretched thin these days, with 20 vacancies for police officer positions and another 13 officers out with COVID-19.

“It’s tough, and officers are picking up a lot of slack,” Police Chief Geoff Jones said Thursday on KFRU’s “Columbia Morning with David Lile.”

The department employs 187 authorized officers, according to its website.

“We’re having to work 12-hour days, and that’s not something I wanted to go to, but we did it out of necessity,” Jones said.

Jones also said Columbia police are going to reduce their contact with the public, so some 911 calls could be dealt with by phone only. Such scenarios might be reporting a car that was broken into or a mailbox that was hit.

This protocol is similar to that of the beginning of the pandemic. Jones is also asking officers to wear masks when they can’t be socially distanced, and he added that he believes most of them are vaccinated.

One way to deal with the staffing issue is to pull detectives out of speciality assignments and have them work a policing shift, Jones said.

Police spokesperson Jeff Pitts said community service aids — hired civilians — can handle a lot of issues, freeing up time for officers. They’re able to assist with crimes not in progress, such as minor car accidents or parking violations, for example.

“If there’s something that absolutely needs an officer to respond and be present for, Columbia Police Department will always respond when needed to,” Pitts said. “But there are just some occasions where something can be handled over the telephone or sometimes even through email.”

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.