The City of Columbia’s 2017 Citizen Survey results revealed that citizens’ satisfaction with quality of police services decreased in the past year.
Only 47 percent of citizens indicated they were satisfied with police response times and efforts to prevent crimes.
Dale Roberts is the executive director of the Columbia Police Officers’ Association. He said he was not at all surprised by the results.
“We’re not embarrassed by that number,” Roberts said. “We don’t feel like we got a bad grade. It actually supports what we’ve been saying all along, which is that we need more officers.”
According to the National Sources of Law Enforcement Employment Data, there should be 2.5 police officers employed for every 1,000 citizens. In Columbia, this would be 301 police officers, compared to the 128 it has now.
Roberts said that this shortage of police officers creates long response times after citizens call 911.
“They [citizens] are very unhappy, and they have a right to be,” Roberts said. “When you call 911, you expect that someone’s going to be there.
In the survey, 58 percent of citizens said they were “likely” or “very likely” to support a property tax increase to hire 30 new police officers.
Toni Messina, the Civic Relations Officer with the City of Columbia, helped develop the survey’s questions.
Messina said citizens typically support tax increases when they trust that the government will spend the money effectively.
“The survey consultant in the executive summary of the report mentioned that the national climate could be contributing to overall feelings about their lives at this time and about their trust level in government,” Messina said. “But I think that government is always challenged to do better for as many people as possible.”