Jill Schlude is Columbia's next police chief
Jill Schlude has been named Columbia’s police chief and is the first woman to hold that position.
“I’m humbled by the trust placed in me by the city leadership, our department and the community,” Schlude said, who has been the department’s assistant chief since 2019.
The decision was announced at a 2 p.m. press conference at city hall by City Manager De’Carlon Seewood.
Schlude will be sworn in at the Dec. 4 council meeting, and her annual salary will be $165,000, according to Seewood.
Schlude’s announcement prompted a standing ovation from attendees.
“Policing is a noble profession that requires dedication, integrity and a genuine commitment to public service,” Schlude said. “I want to assure you that I am fully committed to upholding the highest standards of professionalism and accountability."
Schlude was one of four finalists for the position. The other candidates were Nathaniel Clark, former police chief in Forest Park, Georgia; Dan Haley, formerly a major in the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department; and Michael Zeller, the deputy police chief in Greeley, Colorado.
Schlude said that the other candidates for the position “very graciously contacted me and congratulated me.”
In making the announcement, Seewood noted that the city held nine community forums, multiple community panels and received survey responses from 1,000 residents.
Seewood thanked Stephens for his service as interim chief, leading to a roomful of applause.
“When you have … an internal candidate that ends up becoming a chief, it makes it a smoother transition,” Stephens said. “So the issues that are prevalent are already known by that person before they get there.”
Mayor Barbara Buffaloe said 51% of the Columbia community is female.
“And so if I have a very low amount of females on my police department I want to see that number grow,” Buffaloe said. “Representation in all of our city departments is important to me.”
Fifth Ward Councilperson Don Waterman said her becoming the first female police chief is “a milestone.”
“It’s a significant step ... I look forward to the day when we can stop saying first this first that. Just the next chief,” Waterman said.
Schlude, who celebrated her 18-year anniversary with CPD last month, has lived in Columbia since 1995. She holds degrees from Columbia College and Stephens College.
Race Matters, Friends complained in an email that Seewood is promoting internal hires despite national searches. They listed the directors of Parks and Recreation, Public Works and IT, as well as the Deputy City Manager, Columbia’s fire chief and the director of human resources as internal promotions.
Schlude thanked her family for supporting her throughout her years at CPD, giving a special shoutout to her husband Roger sitting in the front row.
She said that her husband, who she said is a sergeant in the CPD, will retire the day before she takes her oath of office.
She has been vice president of the police union, a liaison to the Citizens Police Review Board as a public relations unit sergeant and a public information officer for CPD.
Schlude described herself at an Oct. 18 candidate forum as a “straight shooter” and someone who has been on both sides of collaborative conversations to improve Columbia, giving her a leg up to “hit the ground running.”
“My vision is one of community partnership and proactive engagement,” Schlude said Wednesday. “I believe in fostering open lines of communication, listening to the concerns of our residents and staff and collaboratively addressing the challenges that we keep close.”
Former KFRU personality David Lile moderated the community forum and believed she did very well.
“I thought in that small little sliver of what was public, I liked her,” Lile said. “I thought she would make a good choice.”
Schlude invited community members to join CPD on the “journey towards a safer and more secure Columbia.”
“I need you and we need you as a police department to join us,” Schlude said Wednesday. “CPD cannot meet these challenges alone. Your input support and collaboration are vital as we work together to create a community where all residents can thrive and feel safe.”
Homelessness and the mental health crisis, Schlude said, are two issues that can’t be laid on the front porch of the police department.
Columbia is in the very end stages of instituting a mental health co-response in which a mental health practitioner sits in 911 joint communications and helps triage calls, Schlude said.
Schlude said she believes there’s a balance to handling homelessness between unhoused individuals, business owners and homeowners. A middle ground is the ideal solution, Schlude said.
“When a person comes to this community, even if they’re a homeless individual, they are now a member of that community,” Schlude said. “So I think we need to treat them as a member of this community and work with them in that respect.”
Schlude is a fan of the Omaha 360 program, a crime reduction strategy that involves multiple organizations working hand-in-hand.
“I think sometimes we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we can put a Columbia spin on it that makes it fit our community a little bit better,” Schlude said.
For the department internally, she expressed interest in focusing on officer wellness and career development, both of which she believes help retention. During the community forum, she noted the department had 33 positions unfilled.
From Schlude’s experience within the department, officer wellness is more commonly discussed, and she wants to prioritize mental health check-ups. Professional development is another retainment quality she wants to consider.
“I am so grateful for the hard work and dedication of the men and women who serve in our police department,” Schlude said Wednesday.
She said is committed to investing in their professional development, ensuring that they are equipped with the meaningful training and tools to enable them to excel in their roles.
Schlude said she would like to put together a recruiting and retention plan within the next 90 days.
“I think when people feel like they’re being mentored and we know what their career goals are ... we’re helping them achieve those goals,” Schlude said. “I think they’re more apt to be loyal to the department and stay.”
Another internal goal for the department is accreditation, which is done through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), the oldest and most popular policing accreditation across the country.
She believes accreditation allows for more transparency to provide the community with a “top-notch service.”
“Agencies get involved in accreditation just like a lot of other things (like) accredited colleges; you don’t go to a college that is not accredited, because a lot of times, it doesn’t mean as much to people, right?” Schlude said.
She said she would like to implement more community policing where officers have enough discretionary time to be in their neighborhood beats. Another interest is one-by-one policing, a term coined by business management author Simon Sinek.
“Officers have to get to know people as human beings and vice versa,” Schlude said.
Having been with the department for almost two decades, Schlude said she has a developed understanding of what CPD does well and what can be done better and is “ready to lead them to that.”
“I try to be a student of leadership of, you know, innovative policing practices,” Schlude said. “And I think I know the people that work here, I know a lot of their strengths, and I think I would be able to get the right people in the right places to get some of these things going really quickly.”