Columbia policing ranks 4th among similar towns

COLUMBIA, Mo 10/26/14 (Beat Byte) -- For numbers of police officers, Columbia compares more than favorably with other Missouri cities and college towns, despite Mayor Bob McDavid's argument to the contrary, a Columbia Missourian study has found. 

Dr. McDavid, city manager Mike Matthes, and police chief Ken Burton are the main proponents of Proposition 1, one of the biggest property tax hikes in Columbia history, which they say will generate $6 million per year for 40 new police officers and 15 new firefighters.  "Our city has fewer police officers compared to other cities and college towns," McDavid has repeatedly argued

But statistics from the Missourian study and a 2013-14 Overland Park, Ks. Police Department survey "challenge the necessity of more officers," reporter Brian Hayes wrote Sunday

"Columbia is on track with the other 29 benchmark police departments around the country that were in the Overland Park survey," Hayes explained.   The cities shared roughly the same average Mayor McDavid has repeatedly said is too low:  1.4 officers per 1,000 people.


The Missourian study compared Columbia Police Department's staffing to Springfield, Independence, St. Charles and Jefferson City in Missouri; and four out-of-state college towns:  Boulder, Colorado; Athens, Georgia; Lawrence, Kansas; and College Station, Texas.

"The comparison showed that Columbia had more officers for every 1,000 calls for service (2.1) and more officers per arrest (31.7) than the total averages, which were 1.9 and 30.0, respectively," the newspaper reported. 

With 2.13 officers for every 1,000 calls from residents, Columbia presently ranks fourth highest out of the nine Missouri cities and college towns the Missourian examined.  

If city officials hire 40 more officers as promised, Proposition 1 catapults Columbia to second place, just behind Texas A&M hometown College Station (see chart above).   Student populations at the two cities don't compare at all, however.  in 2014, Texas A&M enrolled 58,809 compared to Mizzou's projected 38,000, up from 34,658 in 2013. 

Size, however, may not matter as much as McDavid and company say it does.   The Missourian's analysis also "found that a higher number of officers doesn't necessarily result in lower crime rates.  

"Four of the seven police departments the Missourian analyzed that had more officers per citizen than the Columbia Police Department, also had higher crime rates than Columbia, according to the 2012 FBI crime statistics.    The reality is that Columbia police officers have had an increasing number of people to serve but a relatively steady number of service calls or crimes to which they are called to respond."