A proposal to name the new north Columbia police station for a fallen officer has gained the support of her family and the local police association. It could also mark the first time in state history a law enforcement facility has been dedicated to a policewoman’s service.
Mayor Brian Treece has proposed naming the new police station set for completion in 2019 in memory of fallen Columbia Police Department officer Molly Bowden, who was shot during a traffic stop in January 2005 at the corner of Nifong and Forum boulevards and died a month later. Bowden is the only officer in the city’s history to be killed in the line of duty.
He said dedicating the building to her memory would send a message the city has not forgotten her sacrifice and might also inspire recruitment among women and others with diverse backgrounds.
“As we are expanding and changing the way we police, it seemed like the north precinct would be a good opportunity to not only recognize Molly Bowden for her sacrifice, but I think it could go a long way toward recruitment,” Treece said. “Police officers come in all sizes and genders and colors and religions to really make sure the department reflects the community they serve.
“And I think it is a very simple and tangible way to improve morale. Those police officers, whether they worked with her or not, will know her sacrifice is not forgotten.”
Treece said the idea would need the support of the full council to become reality. He was not aware of any specific ordinance on the naming of buildings.
“I did speak to councilman (Mike) Trapp because the precinct is in his ward and I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with it and he was very supportive,” Treece said. “I also wanted to give the council plenty of time to think about it. And if this isn't the right opportunity maybe there is another way out there.”
Following the mayor’s statements, the Columbia Police Officers’ Association came out in support of the idea. CPOA Executive Director Dale Roberts said not only would such a move honor a great officer, but would show other officers they have the support of city hall in a time when many feel it is lacking.
“By all accounts, Molly was an exceptional officer and exceptionally well liked. She was outgoing and friendly but serious when she needed to be. In that regard, she embodied the spirit of a great officer,” Roberts said. “For some time now, our officers have said they do not feel they have the support of city hall. Naming the new police building for one of our own would help to show the city does respect and recognize the work and the sacrifices made by our officers.”
Bowden’s parents Beverly and Dave Thomas said in a joint statement to the Tribune that they were “humbled” by the idea of a city leader supporting dedicating the new building to her memory.
“It is humbling to think the city of Columbia would name the new police building after Molly,” the Thomases said. “We would be very honored if they decided to do this. We feel it is up to our community to decide and will be satisfied with their decision. “
Bowden pulled over 23-year-old Columbia College student Richard Evans on Jan. 10, 2005 at the corner of Nifong and Forum boulevards. Evans shot Bowden and drove off. The next day, Officer Curtis Brown was shot in the arm while chasing Evans on foot. Evans then killed himself.
Brown later recovered. Bowden would lie in the hospital for a month until she died Feb. 10, 2005. Her parents described her as a person who liked to help people in need, even the people arrested in the course of her duties.
“Molly always liked to help and relate to people in need,” her parents said. “In 4-H she assisted younger members to learn to ride a horse. She helped a young girl that was thrown from her horse by letting her get on her own horse to get her confidence back and continue riding. She had the tenacity to never give up. She would visit people she had arrested to help them live better lives. Chief (Randy) Boehm said at her funeral that Molly could calm explosive situations.”
Dedicating the building to Bowden could be the first time in Missouri history a law enforcement facility has been named to honor a female officer. An extensive search of police station names did not yield any results and officials at a half-dozen state law enforcement organizations said they were not aware of any.
“I have spoken to the past president of the state Fraternal Order of Police and the current Executive Director of the National COPS organization (Concerns of Police Survivors) and no one is aware of any police station named for a female officer,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there but we are not aware of any.”
Ground has yet to be broken for construction of the new $9.6 million facility at the intersection of Rangeline Street and International Drive. Construction is supported by a quarter-cent capital improvement tax and completion is expected in late 2019.