Hestir (l); Fox (r)"Children throwing tantrums"

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/18/18 (Feature) -- Emails between Columbia residents and the police sergeant charged with selling the city's community policing initiative reveal frustrations and anger, especially over remarks the sergeant made about people who grilled him at an April 11 forum

"...a disappointing and childish meeting," Sergeant Robert Fox emailed fellow officers Geoffrey Jones, Michael Hestir, and Antonio Parker, cc'ing city manager Mike Matthes

Fox thanked the officers for attending the joint meeting of Race Matters, Friends (RMF), CoMo for Progress, and the Minority Men’s Network
The gathering turned into a shouting match at times, particularly when Fox declined to discuss policing philosophy and department culture.  
Four RMF leaders sent a July 13 letter to the Columbia City Council decrying Fox's "condescending reponses regarding citizens" and "problematic ideology."

Mixed messages 
"RMF hoped to discuss the philosophy of community-oriented policing, models under consideration, cultural change, and training within the Columbia Police Department (CPD)," RMF leaders Tara Warne-Griggs and Peggy Placier wrote to the Columbia City Council four days after the April meeting. 

"We communicated this to Sgt. Fox ahead of time, but were taken aback when he explained that he was there to 'gather our thoughts'...After years of surveys, forums, task forces, and listening tours, we are well past the point of gathering thoughts."  

Fox instead told the standing-room-only crowd that CPD needed more officers, suggesting a new property tax to pay for them, a Matthes favorite that failed at the polls in 2014.    
"Sgt. Fox seems to have been hired to do the bidding of City Manager Matthes and [police] Chief [Ken] Burton, to make a case for a tax initiative to hire more police," Griggs and Placier wrote the Council.  "If this is indeed the case, it is a cruel joke at the expense of the community." 

Childish behavior Wilson-Kleekamp leads meeting

Other attendees emailed Fox with similar confusion about his role. 

"We were surprised to see in the [Columbia Daily] Tribune...that 'Matthes introduced you...as the person in charge of researching and implementing community policing'," CoMo for Progress organizers Kate Canterbury and Rebecca Shaw emailed the police sergeant nine days after the meeting.  "You repeatedly stated at the RMF meeting that your role was only to gather information and you would have no hand in implementing the plan." 

Attributing their confusion to "inaccurate reporting in the Tribune," Fox tried to clarify.
"I was asking for input from your group...in regard to...what community oriented policing means to you," Fox explained.  "That sadly degenerated into...some childish behavior...which is fine but probably a waste of my time." 

Nah Nah Nah

"We are concerned that you walked away from the RMF meeting feeling that it was a waste of time," Shaw and Canterbury responded.  "Though we know tensions were high, we find it unprofessional to refer to citizens as 'childish'." 

"The 'childish' description...stands," Fox replied, noting he received apologies from some attendees.  

"A middle aged woman was yelling 'Nah Nah Nah Nah' in a high-pitched mocking voice," he continued.  "I have worked with dozens of children and adults and have only witnessed that before from young children throwing tantrums."

Fox concluded that RMF members' behavior causes city leaders to "ignore their opinions." 
Flippity floppityGrace Vega scolds Fox

Fox doubled down on his criticism of RMF in a June 17 email to Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas.
"They say they want to see action -- not another round of 'what do you want?'," Fox told Thomas, cc'ing Matthes.  "This was the only constructive comment from my meeting with RMF."
"We have good community police relations, even if Race Matters Friends et. al. wish we didn’t," he continued. 
"My understanding is [Department of Justice] community services units have come to Columbia recently at [RMF leader] Tracy Wilson's (sic) request.  Their trip ended with an apology to Mike Matthes for wasting his time.  They advised him the only people who needed to be more inclusive in Columbia are RMF."

Oddly enough, Fox flip-flopped on his condemnation of RMF a few days after the April 11 forum.

"I enjoyed the debate and meeting some of you at the RMF meeting, thank you for the invite," Fox emailed Warne-Griggs April 20.  "It was great to see people passionate about social issues and their communities. I encourage all of you to engage with your communities and use that passion."