COLUMBIA, Mo. - A lieutenant with decades of experience has been promoted to be interim chief of of the Columbia Police Department.
Interim City Manager John Glascock introduced Lt. Geoff Jones as the new temporary chief during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Jones is a patrol supervisor who has overseen the city's northeast sector. He is taking over leadership of the department from acting Chief Jill Schlude.
Playback of a live video of the news conference is available below.
"I think we have a lot of opportunity that we haven't had in quite a while," Jones said.
Glascock said he has been researching the workings of the department since the resignation of former chief Ken Burton, including taking suggestions from residents and staff and talking with other agencies about issues.
Leadership was one of the primary issues that needed to be addressed to rebuild confidence in CPD, Glascock said before introducing Jones.
Jones has been with the policing department for 20 years and is "well versed" in community policing, Glascock said. He has worked at CPD in roles including patrol officer, narcotics investigator, investigative sergeant, commander of the Community Outeach Unit and as a CPD FBI Task Force member.
Jones promised to meet with officers over the next two weeks and encouraged officers to build relationships in the community.
"Policing must be built on trust," Jones said while addressing community members in prepared remarks.
When asked about improving police relations with Columbia's black community, Jones said transparency was key.
"Really with every community, it's about being transparent," he said.
James Gray, a pastor in the community, said he was happy with the interim police chief decision.
"Geoff Jones is a people person," Gray said. "Geoff Jones is a person that you will see out in our communities with our officers and not behind the desk a lot."
Other people have voiced their support for Jones as well.
"Geoff is the best possible choice," said Tom Dresner, interim CPD chief in 2008-09. "At this particular time, CPD is in a very real crisis. The challenges are coming from all directions. Geoff is guided by a fundamental commitment to building internal and external trust, community investment, collaboration and doing the right thing."
"Our officers know they can rely on Lt. Jones for his professionalism, leadership, and personal involvement with the activities and the demands of the department," the Columbia Police Officers Association said in a statement. "Our police officers could not ask for a better law enforcement professional to lead them into their new era."
Jones takes over a department experiencing turmoil and leadership turnover.
Burton was placed on administrative leave Dec. 20. He resigned Jan. 3 without citing a reason and has given no public interviews.
The past several years of Burton's tenure were dogged by controversy, including public spats with the union representing city police officers and criticism from city residents over the number of black drivers pulled over in traffic stops. Burton's leave started after public criticism over a reorganization of the CPD Community Outreach Unit that contributed to the resignation of City Manager Mike Matthes.
Media organizations also reported on Burton's work habits and his use of social media. ABC 17 News has also reported that Burton misled the city council about the plans to reorganize the outreach unit.
Glascock said he has asked Jones to "affect meaningful change" in four areas: addressing internal issues, evaluating departmental policies, implementing community policing and addressing racial disparities in vehicle stops.
Glascock said he received eight letters of interest in the position and he whittled that down to four applicants.
"One name kept coming up," Glascock said. He said several community members suggested Jones.
A permanent replacement for Burton will be selected by the next permanent city manager. The search to fill that position is ongoing.
Jones said he wasn't ready to commit to seeking the chief position full time, but that it's possible he will after doing the job for a while. "But we're not there yet," Jones said.