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Police chief finalists put their best foot forward at community forum

David Lile sits in a with a microphone and pad of paper in hand, watching Assistant Police Chief Jill Schlude answer a question.
Sam Cox
David Lile moderates a public forum for the community to learn more about four different police chief candidates on Wednesday at City Hall in Columbia. Community members later got the opportunity to speak with all the candidates.

Council Chambers of the Daniel Boone City Building were packed Wednesday evening as residents gathered to hear the city’s police chief finalists present their case for why they deserve the Columbia Police Department’s top job.

Residents of all ages were in attendance, filling almost every seat in the room.

David Lile, former KFRU morning talk show personality, moderated the event. Five questions were drafted based on citizen responses on BeHeardCoMo.

Finalists were brought out independently to answer questions.

First was Dan Haley, who previously worked in the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department as a major in the Human Resources Division. An MU alumnus, he emphasized his night patrol and administrative experiences.

Jill Schlude, Columbia’s assistant police chief and the only finalist from Columbia, appeared in her CPD uniform. She said Tuesday was her 18th anniversary with the department.

Michael Zeller, the deputy police chief in Greeley, Colorado, compared his city’s diversity and university aspects to Columbia, mentioning that he visited Columbia many times.

Nathaniel Clark, who most recently served as the public safety director and chief of police in Forest Park, Georgia, described himself as a “seasoned police chief.”

Community violence and public safety

Haley: He described his “vision for Columbia,” which entailed prevention, intervention, enforcement, reentry and rehabilitation. It “envelopes the community concept of crime fighting, realizing that we can’t do it alone.”

Haley referenced Omaha’s crime reduction strategy, known as Omaha 360. This nationally-recognized violence prevention and intervention model was also brought up by Schlude.

Schlude: She is motivated to utilize data-driven approaches by addressing “what is happening in what areas of town, why it’s happening there and how we need to deploy resources to deal with those things.”

She emphasized the police department can’t handle certain issues unilaterally.

“You’re going to hear me saying collaborative a lot, probably to the point where you’re going to get irritated with it,” Schlude said.

Zeller: He also heavily addressed the topic of community relations. The police department “can’t have a heavy-handed enforcement strategy without building that trust with the community,” he said.

Zeller mentioned a “multiple-pronged approach to deal with violent crime,” which includes identifying career criminals and places that contribute to crime based on data.

Clark: He also addressed that some issues are too complex for the department to handle alone. He advocated for building strong, collaborative relationships with the community’s stakeholders.

He also mentioned maximizing the use of cameras and increased security technology because “we’re living in the age of technology.”

Staffing shortages

Haley: When referencing retention in the police department, Haley said “it’s kind of like a patient.”

“When someone’s bleeding out, what do you have to do? Stop the bleed,” he said.

Schlude: She brought up the point that the police department is short 33 people at the moment.

In order to incentivize applicants who choose between Boone County Sheriff’s Department and CPD, Schlude said “one-upping” the sheriff department is “not a plan that’s a Band-Aid.”

Zeller: He addressed that this shortage is an issue across the country, and his department has had success compared to its peers.

Though he attributed this to pay benefits, he mentioned both training and a “family atmosphere” are critical.

Clark: When it comes to staffing shortages in the police department, “first and foremost, we have to stop the bleed internally,” Clark said.

He created a “chief advisory board” in a former department to give officers a voice.

Homelessness and mental health

Haley: “Homelessness is not a crime issue, it’s a community issue,” Haley said.

He emphasized the police department has to work together with community partners because the department is not fully equipped to handle this alone.

Schlude: “You’re going to hear me say the ‘C’ word again: collaboration,” Schlude said. “The homeless problem can’t be laid on the front porch of the police department.”

She referred to a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, in which she said 75% focused on how they dealt with homelessness.

A mental health co-response program the Columbia Police Department is looking at involves mental health practitioners determining if armed forces are needed on-scene with a practitioner, Schlude said.

Zeller: “You’re not going to arrest your way out of the homeless issue,” Zeller said. “Law enforcement has a critical role in that, but it is definitely a community-wide problem and it’s going to take everyone at the table to resolve that.”

Like Schlude, Zeller also mentioned the use of co-response programs to respond to mental health crises.

Clark: Because the police department is the “most visible arm of city government, (the question of homelessness) stops at our door,” Clark said.

He stressed the importance of rehabilitation in place of incarceration as well as a collaborative effort. Clark wants to bring homeless individuals to the decision-making table.

In law enforcement, “we want to treat everyone fairly in law enforcement, and we don’t want to violate anybody’s constitutional rights,” Clark said. “When my rights stop, your rights begin.”

Community accountability groups (CPRB, neighborhood watch)

Haley: ”You have some very passionate people in Columbia,” Haley said. “And that’s a good thing.”

He said a police chief has to have thick skin and be willing to find common ground with community groups, such as the Citizens Police Review Board.

Schlude: She said she was the former liaison for the CPRB, and she said going to Columbia Neighborhood Watch meetings was one of her favorite things to do.

Schlude referenced, as the former vice president of the police union, “deep internal conversations” about community accountability were a necessity.

Zeller: He said he comes from a diverse Latino community, which had a Latino advisory committee, and acknowledged the importance of working with community boards.

When talking about the mistakes in policing, “I’m the type of individual that if we make a mistake, I’m going to own that,” Zeller said.

Clark: He said he wants to ensure that he is transparent in his role, treating the community as equal partners to identify and solve problems, ensuring that his words align with his actions.

“Anytime I put myself before you, you lose, and you should never lose,” Clark said.

Law enforcement accreditation

All four candidates mentioned CALEA; the oldest and most popular policing accreditation across the country.

Haley: He referenced the 21st Century Policing report under former President Obama’s administration, which was commissioned to determine how to make the relationship between the public and police better.

He said his task is to “look, learn and listen” when it comes to moving the department toward accreditation.

Schlude: She believes accreditation shows the department cares to provide residents a “top-notch service.”

Schlude added that accreditation increases transparency in how the police department functions, which will be an internal priority.

Zeller: He said part of building trust within the community involves having “an outside set of eyes to look at policy, procedures and practices.”

“A good middle ground is to have a very robust and dynamic state-level accreditation,” Zeller said.

Clark: He has been the chief executive officer of two accredited departments, and he said “accreditation in law enforcement is like the gold standard.”

Clark compared police department accreditation to sending your child to an accredited university and visiting a board-certified doctor, “so why wouldn’t you want your police department to be accredited?”


Immediately following the forum, a meet-and-greet with the candidates took place where attendees could speak with the finalists on a more personal level.

The ultimate decision for who is hired is up to City Manager De’Carlon Seewood. Susan Renee Carter, president of Race Matters, Friends, said she feels the city is better prepared for the selection of a new police chief than they were in the past.

“I was really impressed with the process and how De’Carlon, at Monday’s council meeting, described the process,” Carter said. “It was very good to hear what all has gone into this, what the next steps are, what to expect.”

Candidates will face panels of Columbia community members Thursday, who will provide feedback to Seewood. His decision is planned to be revealed in November, said city spokesperson Sydney Olsen.

Missourian reporters Paige Gerling, Zoe Homan and Aidan Pittman contributed to this report.

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.
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