Today, at 8:14 a.m., the Columbia Police Department command staff was made aware of a "moral[e] survey" released to the public by the Columbia Police Officers' Association (CPOA). The press release, survey, and results came as an attachment from a media outlet requesting an interview on the topic and was not provided to the department by CPOA.
The press release issued from CPOA Director Dale Roberts that accompanied the "survey" and results emphasized, "…this agency is an agency in crisis and immediate action is necessary."
Nationwide the law enforcement profession is in crisis. This year, the United States has buried 66 law enforcement officers; eight in the last 11 days. The crisis is the divide our nation is facing. There is no room for this divide to catalyze within individual agencies; the result of such an act is detrimental to the community law enforcement officers declare to protect and serve.
As a department, we recognize and value the opinions and concerns of department personnel. We have not and do not deny morale is low for our officers, just as it is throughout the nation in this trying time for the profession. The survey results indicated displeasure with many areas in the department with shift configuration being one of the main concerns.
"I get it, I'd love to be able to give everybody every weekend off and we work 40 hours a week some other time, but the reality is we're a 24-hour-a-day agency that has to provide services, so somebody has to work nights and somebody has to work weekends; that's just the nature of the beast. I wish I could fix it. It's not anything 40 or 50 more cops wouldn't help with. It's the most efficient shift that we could come up with and still give officers every other weekend off," says Chief Ken Burton.
He emphasizes there must be understanding of the City's resources available and how they're allocated. The lack of funding does not imply "neglect" of any department.
"What the city can do is what the city can do. We're dependent on sales tax and sales tax is down. We'd love to be able to say ‘hire those 50 cops.' I'm sure the City Manager and City Council would love to give us that money, it's simply not there. So we're in a position of having to deal with what we have, so we have to use the resources we have as wisely as we possibly can to continue to provide ample police services."
Command staff committed to looking at the shift configuration after one year -late 2016/early 2017- to determine if any changes can or will be made. The City Manager and CPD command staff have scheduled meetings with CPOA Board of Directors on more than one occasion. In each, the Board of Directors did not attend. We continue to welcome meetings with CPOA Board of Directors and CPOA members to discuss their concerns further. We hope as a City service, especially as a law enforcement agency, the only voice that resonates throughout this town is a voice of unity.