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Police Review Board backs new policy for off-duty cops

The new policy would require police officers to wear their uniforms when performing off-duty security work.
The new policy would require police officers to wear their uniforms when performing off-duty security work.

The Columbia Citizens Police Review Board has unanimously voted to back a city policy requiring police officers to wear their uniforms while performing off-duty security work.  Controversy surrounding that policy sprang from the sidewalks outside of the Planned Parenthood office in Columbia.

The pro-life group 40 Days for Life says Columbia off-duty police officers hired by Planned Parenthood for security should not wear their police uniforms. The group distributes literature near the clinic on Providence Road and says it appears the city is endorsing what happens at Planned Parenthood. But Citizens Police Review Board member Mitch Richards says Columbia police officers are required to wear uniforms everywhere they’re hired for off-duty security. He says the board voted to back the existing policy because it can’t make an exception only for off-duty officers working outside Planned Parenthood.

“We would have to introduce some kind of criteria for deciding what is controversial. What, you know, divides the public as far as policy goes and what doesn’t,” Richards said.

40 Days for Life member Joanne Schrader was at the meeting. She maintains that off-duty officers shouldn’t have to wear uniforms just because of a blanket policy. 

“I’d have to look at in on a case by case basis," Schrader said.

Columbia Planned Parenthood spokesperson Michelle Trupiano was also at the meeting. She says she’s pleased with the board’s decision.

“I think that the policy needs to be all or nothing,” Trupiano said.

Some 40 Days for Life members complained that the board voted in favor of the uniform policy without listening to public comment beforehand. Board member Mitch Richards says the policy had been open for public comment in the March meeting and that the Wednesday meeting was intended for a decision.