In 2009, the Columbia Police Department introduced geographic policing. Officers were assigned to specific areas of town, or “beats.” Officers worked to get to know the neighbors of their beats and understand what problems or concerns the residents had. Shortly after this model was introduced, CPD expanded the approach and assigned two officers to Douglass Park, a known “hotspot” for calls for service and/or criminal activity in the City of Columbia. These two officers worked diligently to build relationships with residents in the area which proved valuable as calls for service to the area soon decreased.
In May 2015, CPD expanded the areas of town the Douglass Park Unit patrolled. The name of the unit was changed to Community Outreach Unit (COU) to properly reflect the efforts of the officers working in the unit. The COU was assigned to different areas of town with the mission to open lines of communication with the community while rebuilding community partnerships.
By October 2015, City Council selected three neighborhoods to focus resources on as part of the 2015 Strategic Plan. The decision was made to expand the COU from two officers to six officers with a full-time sergeant overseeing operations.
In June 2016, the Columbia Police Department applied for the COPS Hiring Program Grant through the United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office). COPS Hiring Program awarded CPD the grant on October 3, 2016. This grant allowed funding for four (4) new officer positions, to preferably be filled with post-Sept. 11, 2001 military veterans. The officers hired through this grant focus on violent crime, specifically gun violence and gang-related criminal activities. Two of the four positions were assigned to COU in June 2017. The remaining two positions were assigned to the Street Crimes Unit in August 2017.
- Listen and act upon the cares and concerns of the community.
- Establish a network of community contacts.
- Create an environment in which community members are comfortable to communicate with the police.
- Identify problem areas, people, and situations within the community.
- Identify areas in which police meet the needs of these communities and areas in which police do not meet the needs of these communities.
- Responsibly enforce the law in these communities to build trust in those who call upon us.
Teams of two Community Outreach Unit officers are assigned to the three Strategic Plan neighborhoods. The neighborhoods include:
In 2017, a fourth neighborhood was identified by the city. This neighborhood is not a part of the Strategic Plan, but through the Tucson Neighborhood Stress Index indicated resources would be beneficial in the area. The COPS Hiring Program Grant funded the Community Outreach Unit officers assigned to this area, known as the Paris to 63 corridor.