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Columbia police plan training on bias-free policing


Columbia’s police department is conducting a day-long training next week on respectful community policing. It’s part of a larger effort and community discussion on improving the relationship between the police and the public. JESSICA PUPOVAC has this…

There is only one Spanish-speaking officer in the Columbia Police Department, and there is no established training on how officers should deal with the Spanish-speaking or other immigrant populations.  It was just one of the topics that came up Tuesday night at the Bias-Free Columbia Coalition’s town hall meeting at City Hall. The event featured Muslim and Latino speakers, as well as a lively discussion on diversity in Columbia. Police Chief Ken Burton regularly attends the meetings in what he says is an effort to build community trust.  "There are parts of the city here, where kids run away from an police car and that ought to be the opposite. They ought to be coming toward us and not running away from us."

That’s one of the reasons that Burton has organized a training next week on the value of showing unconditional respect to the people they encounter in the line of duty. "We need to win those hearts and minds back because we are here for one purpose and one purpose only and that’s for protection of the public, and that’s all the public, regardless of where you came from or what you how you got here. It sounds like a tall task, but that’s what I hope to accomplish."

The all-day training will be required for all command staff and will be led by two officers from the Kansas City Police Department. "They are talking about their book, and their book is entitled Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect, so it talks about every situation that you come in contact with a citizen, and treat that person with unconditional respect No bias, no pre-afore thought – nothing, just treat everybody with respect…..What sort of feedback have you gotten in the department with that training title? So far it’s gone over like a lead balloon."

The training will be held next Thursday, December 8th. In what Burton says is another unorthodox move, he is making the training open to the public. The Bias-Free Columbia Coalition will also host the two officers for a shorter, informal discussion the night before, on Dec. 7th, at the city's administration building.