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Columbia City Council Rejects Community Policing Funding

The Columbia City Council voted to keep taxi stands on local streets.
The Columbia City Council voted to keep taxi stands on local streets.

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid’s proposal for more public safety funding was quickly rejected Monday when his motion failed to receive a second. Mayor McDavid proposed $150,000 in new funding for public security sector to help fund services such as community policing.

Community Policing is seen as a “vital” part of police work by members of the public safety sector as it provides officers the opportunity to become part of a community and get to know the people around them, says Bryana Larimer, a Columbia Police Department spokesperson.

“We have a great community outreach unit that is composed of two officers that spend a lot of time in the community getting to know our residents, and the children of the community and building those relationships so right now what will continue to do is function at that level,” Larimer said.

Despite there being no additional funding for community outreach programs, there was an increase in the overall public safety budget. A total of 31 new city employee positions have been created, including 3 jobs at the police department: a public information specialist, crime scene investigator and police trainer. Four of the positions will be created in the fire department.

The proposal received opposition due to funds being pulled from public services such as Columbia Access Television. More than a dozen residents and CAT TV members spoke in defense of the public access channel at the budget hearing. Jennifer Erickson, director of CAT TV spoke of her pride in her organization and its members.

“We know the power of community media, we hoped that we’d get that message out to the public, last night it felt really good to be associated with Columbia access television.”, Erickson said.

Erickson says that the large number of people protesting further budget cuts to CAT TV was not a surprise.

“We kind of expected [the turnout], we have the data to show it’s a strong community media center and something that’s needed in this town,” Erickson said.

2016 will be the third year in a row that public access television has received a cut to its funding, with CAT TV receiving $200,000 in the fiscal year 2014, which was then cut to $100,000 for 2015 and now stands at just $50,000 in the year 2016. CAT TV is “grateful for any funding” it receives says Erickson, “but $50,000 is not a lot to be able to conduct the many resources that we conduct.”

Fifth Ward Council member Laura Nauser described her support for public access television at the meeting but also said she worried the channel was being prized over other council priorities. Second Ward Council member Michael Trapp suggested lowering CAT TV’s funding further to $25,000 in 2017 in order to encourage the channel to become self-sustaining. 

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