Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do you post news on social media?

The Columbia Police Department is the most accurate source of information related to law enforcement operations. We realize that times are changing and great number of our citizens turn to social media platforms to receive news. We will post critical incidents, media staging areas, and other pertinent operations onto our Twitter account. Please follow @ColumbiaPD to stay connected for the latest news on CPD.

How do you determine who gets an exclusive?

We are approached daily by reporters who inquire about a particular story. We will also solicit reporters who have a great rapport with our organization and run story ideas by them. A lot of times what is perceived to be an “exclusive” is simply a reporter who first initiated contact with us on a story.

How do I get onto the media distribution email list for news releases?

Sign up to receive new releases in email

Why haven’t I received a response yet to my email or telephone call?

Please remember that although the Public Relations Unit understands deadline needs, this staff is not an extension of the newsroom. In other words, your deadline is not necessarily ours. The Public Information Officers strive to return telephone calls and respond to emails promptly. The Public Information Officers receive many requests for information daily, and also coordinates internal messaging for department members. In email and voicemail messages, please provide the information being requested and any deadlines. 

What do I do if I encounter a witness on-scene who provides information or a tip?

In some instances, the Media may encounter witnesses and victims. To ensure investigators have as much information as possible, Media is encouraged to notify the Public Relations Unit of any potential witnesses to ensure the investigators have an opportunity to speak with him or her.

When will CPD seek assistance from the Media?

There are times when the Public Relations Unit will seek assistance from the Media in apprehending a suspect or looking for a suspect vehicle. During these types of investigations, the Public Information Officer will coordinate with the on-scene commander to devise a message for what, when, and how the information request for assistance will be pushed out.

How can I receive information on the weekend and after business hours?

Information customarily provided during the week will not be available on the weekends or after business hours (i.e. crime statistics, case updates, and other basic inquiries). However, if there is a tactical call-out, a homicide or traffic fatality, then the Public Information Officers plan to respond. For other less-serious incidents, an official response may have to wait until regular business hours. There are tools available during the weekend though.The Columbia Police Department ISTATUS has all calls that are delayed by six hours. 

Why can’t CPD release medical conditions?

Due to privacy concerns, the Public Information Officers will only try to provide a general description of injuries sustained in an incident or traffic collision (i.e. serious injuries, life-threatening injuries, however not stable or critical conditions) rather than medical conditions. In addition, the Public Information Officers will try to release the last known location where the injured party was transported to (i.e. University Hospital, Boone Hospital, etc.).

When can we receive mug shots?

Mug shots may be released only upon approval of the Criminal Investigation Division supervisor from the assigned investigations unit. This will normally only be approved when the release of the mug shot does not interfere or negatively affect the criminal investigation that is ongoing. One example when the photograph could be withheld would be if the primary investigator needs to show a photo lineup to potential witnesses.

Why aren’t 911 calls or dash camera video available immediately after an incident?

It is rare that a 911 call or dash camera video will be quickly available because of the time it takes to ensure that the information gathered in that call is releasable during an active investigation. The process for releasing 911 calls or any other open record document has to go through multiple layers, including a review by the investigator in that case, the Legal Department and Records Section.

Can I set my camera crew up on private property?

Regarding requests by the Media to enter or dwell on private property, photography or filming will require the permission of the owner or the owner’s representative and is not sought by the Public Information Officers.

How can we help during missing person cases?

The Public Information Officers are regularly notified in missing person cases. After consultation with the patrol supervisor or investigator, it will be determined if there is a need to solicit the Media’s assistance in locating the missing person. If it is appropriate, the Public Information Officers will provide photos, personal and medical information, and details regarding the disappearance. This could include issuing a Silver Alert if all the criteria are met. Examples of requests for assistance may include missing children (most exclude runaways), Alzheimer’s patients, elderly confused persons, medical emergencies, and if foul play is suspected.

What do I need to know regarding serious crash scenes?

Crash scenes can become very dangerous places for responding officers and Media alike. Just because police have closed a lane to prevent vehicular travel to protect the integrity of the crash scene, always be aware that drivers can disregard lane patterns and become involved in another collision with emergency vehicles. This includes Media trucks that are parked near a scene. The Public Information Officers ask that Media park vehicles off the main traveled lanes of the roadway and allow sufficient sight distance for approaching motorists.

The Public Information Officers will release the name of adults charged and arrested with a criminal offense related to a crash and make every effort to release the circumstances surrounding the crash, including generic passenger and driver information.

Can CPD help me with a story by providing background statistics beyond what I find on the website?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that some requests may require open Records Requests under the Missouri Sunshine Act in order to track the data on our end. The Public Information Officers can only provide information that the department actually collects, and due to work load demands, it may take several days to track down very specific information.

What if I want an interview with the victim of a crime?

The Public Information Officers are prohibited from releasing names of crime victims and witnesses. In some cases, the Public Relations Unit Supervisor can notify victims/witnesses that you want to interview them, however CPD does not generally facilitate any meeting or format to accomplish an interview. CPD’s professional and ethical responsibility is in preserving a victim’s dignity, privacy, and resolving whatever crime has been committed against them.

Why is the initial scanner traffic sometimes different from what eventually is reported by police?

Initial information is preliminary and may not be accurate as the situation may change from the initial information received. Dynamic police events and the demand for accurate information require patience from both Media outlets and law enforcement. The Public Information Officers will gather sufficient, reliable facts and provide relevant information to the news Media in the timeliest manner possible.

Why don’t police make reports on everything they respond to?

It is important to remember that CPD is tasked with addressing criminal matters. With that being said, we often respond to a multitude of different types of calls for service. There are times when no criminal activity appears to have taken place. During these types of responses, no police reports are made. Civil matters such as neighbor disputes over property lines, land-water use, and landlord-tenant disputes will likely not generate a police report. Additionally, police may respond to fire and EMS calls for traffic control, however a report will not be made by CPD. 

What if I have a compliment, concern, or complaint about the Public Relations Unit?

We strive to be professional, transparent, and accurate in our information releases and respond to Media inquiries promptly. If you would like to commend one of our employees, voice a concern, or lodge a complaint, please contact the Public Relations Unit Supervisor, Sgt. Scott Alpers at 573-874-7431. You can also fill out a complaint or compliment on this website. 

As a journalist, can I actually ride out with an officer or tour the CPD media office?

Please fill out a ride a long form that you can get from the Columbia Police Department front desk station master at 600 E. Walnut.  The form is then turned over to Assistant Chief John Gordon for his approval and the station master will contact you with the approval or decline.

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