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Columbia Police Department has yet to comment on traffic stop numbers

There is still no comment from the Columbia Police Department regarding the Attorney General’s traffic stop report.

2016 numbers showed black drivers were four times as likely to be pulled over than white drivers and at a rate three times greater than expected.

That spike is the highest since 2000, despite Chief Ken Burton’s promise to dig into the 2015 numbers and make some changes.

The report comes out around June 1 every year, but the department has not commented on the 2017 report. Police spokeswoman Bryana Larimer told ABC 17 in an email Monday that the information would be sent out Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday afternoon, ABC 17 followed up with Larimer, and was told that there was a “hold up” in releasing the information. ABC 17’s inquiry about what exactly that hold up was went unanswered.

Columbia mayor Brian Treece said at Monday night’s city council meeting that he was curious about why the numbers spiked despite the promise to look at them.

City manager Mike Matthes offered some explanation to the increase in response. He said that the city is still having meetings and gathering research, and hasn’t implemented any programs.

The police department did start a program this year that would make it a requirement to have signed consent of someone before police could search their car. Matthes said that the data wouldn’t reflect that change or possible impact.

“Part of the issue we’re having is our work has not lined up on the cycle the report comes out in,” he said.

He also said that the poverty level in black communities runs higher and an officer pulling someone over for a car problem, like a broken taillight, gets recorded as a stop.

Matthes said other communities have decided to stop pulling cars over for those kinds of things and that their disparity index has evened out.

“There’s a conversation we have to have publicly in the community,” he said. “What’s the cost benefit of that solution?”

Members of the community Monday night were angry that Matthes was responding to the numbers almost a week after the department.

“They turned in the data a long time ago to the Attorney General’s office,” said Traci Wilson-Kleekamp. “Why today you’re giving an explanation for him and he hasn’t been out front with the information is beyond me.”

Some organizations continue to call for the removal of Chief Burton.

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