Protesters advocate for police reform, in the streets and in council chambers
COLUMBIA—The topic of police reform dominated the public comment portion of Monday’s Columbia City Council meeting.
Four of five people scheduled to speak at the beginning of the meeting spoke on a topic related to police or criminal justice reform.
After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, defunding the police has been the topic of both local and national conversations. In Columbia, protests against police brutality have been taking place for nearly a month straight. Monday, a group of around 30 protesters marched down Broadway in front of the Daniel Boone City Building right before the meeting was set to begin. Many then moved inside to listen to their fellow protesters address the City Council.
Lynn Maloney admonished the Columbia Police Officers Association, calling it an “explicitly racist institution.” She said the mission of the CPOA forces officers to focus more on arresting people rather than adhering to the ideals of community policing, such as forming relationships.
Maloney said that problematic culture is highlighted by the text on the union’s website under its “About” section, which contains the phrase, “Nothing will stop me from placing you in a steel cage with bars.”
She called on the council to urge the CPOA to change its mission, as well as to fire director Dale Roberts, who has been criticized in the past for racist social media posts. The local organization Race Matters, Friends has also repeatedly called for Roberts to be fired in the wake of various posts.
“The CPOA is a part of institutional racism in Columbia,” Maloney said.
Kimber Summers used her time to advise the council about how the city can better help those struggling with drug abuse and addiction.
“We cannot talk about defunding the police without talking about mass incarceration,” Summers said. “And we cannot talk about mass incarceration without talking about drug abuse and addiction.”
Summers advocated for moving some of the Columbia Police Department’s funding toward social services, including a permanent homeless shelter and programs offering drug abuse counseling.
“All systems that will help make people’s lives better instead of putting them in prison,” Summers said.
Roy Lovelady has been a key figure in organizing the Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Columbia. He spoke Monday on behalf of Peoples Defense, a local organization committed to social justice.
Lovelady emphasized how there is a lack of trust between Black people and the police, and cited the recently released vehicle stop data as evidence why. Data released by the Missouri Attorney General’s office last month shows Black people are over four times more likely than white people to be pulled over in both Columbia and Boone County. Lovelady said this further emphasizes how black people do not feel protected by police.
“In the Black community, calling the police is a last resort,” he said.
Lovelady said he has met personally with Police Chief Geoff Jones to discuss how the Columbia Police Department can better protect Black citizens.
“The Columbia Police Department is actually above the curve, but there is still work to be done,” he said.
Jamie Reeves was scheduled to speak on police defunding but did not show.