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Here's what Columbia residents want in the next chief of police

A photo of David O'Brien talking to the Missouri on Mic Team in the lobby of the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia. He is wearing a long-sleeved button up shirt, and there is a Missouri on Mic sign to his left.
Katelynn McIlwain
David O'Brien and others at the library found engagement with the community an important priority for Columbias' next chief of police.

The City of Columbia has narrowed its search for a police chief to four finalists: Nathaniel Clark from Georgia; Dan Haley from Kansas City; Michael Zeller from Colorado and Jill Schlude, who is currently Columbia’s assistant chief of police. KBIA’s Missouri on Mic team went to the library to ask folks what they want to city to consider during the hiring process. Here's an excerpt from their conversations:

Tadeo Ruiz: What’s your name?

David O’Brien: David O’Brien

Denelle Jordan: Denelle Jordan

Leslie Dollar Lindburg: Leslie Dollar Lindburg

Harshawn Ratanpal: What do you want to see in Columbia’s next chief of police?

A portrait of Denelle Jordan
Alex Cox
Denelle Jordan

David O’Brien: I think there’s still some challenges in terms of profiling people, you know, because of their race and so on. I think what I’m looking for is somebody who understands the solutions to the problem, which is not more force, for example. But it's sort of engaging with the community, how do you engage with the community?

Denelle Jordan: Just like to do what’s best for the community. When I see police it’s like, "Oh, it's trouble," or "Am I going to jail?" No, I ain't got no one, but I still think I'm going to jail. I want to feel safe when I see them. I don’t want to feel like I might get shot.

Leslie Dollar Lindburg: I want somebody that's not necessarily picked because they’re a minority or because they’re bisexual or all of the "pick 'em because they’re this."

A portrait of David O'Brien.
Alex Cox
David O'Brien

Denelle Jordan: I hope it’s somebody that’s already been on the force with them and familiar with the community, 'cause there was a few guys that was working the beat or whatever, and we got to know them a little bit.

David O’Brien: To me, the research tends to show that it's the cop walking the beat. Coming in on the car from the outside is very different than the guy just walking down the street. And that's really what we had at one time in America. And now they come in, you know, they have these cars that look like they're in some movie, apocalypse something or other.

Leslie Dollar Lindburg: I think there needs to be more investment with children with disabilities so that they understand police are good. I have two teenage grandsons who kind of walk on the wild side a little, and that would be helpful. The experience our family has had with one of our adopted grandsons who's had issues — well, it was a juvenile officer, who was absolutely wonderful.

A portrait of Leslie Dollar Lindburg
Alex Cox
Leslie Dollar Lindburg

Denelle Jordan: Okay, one experience I had, somebody took my bookbag or whatever, and I kind of was chasing after 'em. They kind of rushed me, and I had to take them down. And undercover — he was Black. He pulled his gun and pointed it in my face, and then when he started going through the bookbag, he realized it was mine. And I'm still in shock, you know what I'm saying?

David O’Brien: It might be somebody who says, geez, I'm willing to sit down and talk with some of the local community leaders and find out from them what they think would work.

Denelle Jordan: I mean, maybe just come around, like come to a picnic or something. And just like, try to get to know the people and then see if we can do something, you know. I guess that we're all people. They people just like we people, you know. Like, they got family, too. That might be my son, it might be your son.

KBIA brought this input from the community to a public forum with the candidates last week. The city says it will choose a new police chief in November.

Tadeo Ruiz is a Freshman in the Missouri School of Journalism from Mexico City. He's a reporter and producer for KBIA.
Harshawn Ratanpal is a senior at the University of Missouri studying journalism and economics. He is the current Print-Audio Convergence Editor, or PACE, for the Missouri News Network focusing on homelessness coverage.
Alex Cox is a Junior in the Missouri School of Journalism. They're a reporter and producer for KBIA.
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