The Columbia Police Department would like to congratulate Officer Maria Phelps and Officer Justin Thomas on being selected to join the Community Outreach Unit.
Officer Phelps and Officer Thomas' positions are two of the four positions added to the Community Outreach Unit through the COPS Hiring Program Grant through the United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office). An interview panel comprised of community partners assisted with the interviews and selection. Officer Phelps began with the department in 2013 and Officer Thomas began in 2015. Both say they are looking forward to the opportunity ahead.
"I'm excited to be a part of a team that's dedicated to building strong ties in the community," says Officer Thomas. "I'm looking forward to working together with citizens to solve problems and create a safer environment for all residents."
The team will begin their work in the area of Sylvan Lane and Whitegate Drive. They will focus on building stronger relationships with residents and deterring further gun violence in the neighborhoods. From January 1, 2016 through June 1, 2017, Columbia Police officers responded to calls of shots heard/fired on Sylvan Lane or Whitegate Drive 20 times. In two of those calls, young men were injured by the gunfire; in a third, 24-year-old Gabrielle Rhodes, Jr. lost his life.
"The Community Outreach Unit has shown success in the three Strategic Neighborhoods by reducing violence and connecting with residents," says Lt. Geoff Jones. "I believe similar outreach efforts will expand these successes into this new area."
Officer Phelps and Officer Thomas are expected to transition into their new roles within the coming weeks. The timeline for filling the remaining two positions through the COPS Hiring Program Grant has not been determined at this time. For more information regarding the COPS Hiring Program Grant, including fiscal impacts, please visit https://www.CoMo.gov/CMS/pressreleases/view.php?id=4590.