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Residents respond to Columbia’s Vehicle Stops and Listening Tours

According to a recent feedback report, some Columbia residents say a police traffic unit is needed.

On Nov. 6, 2017, the Columbia City Council received the Vehicle Stops and Listening Tour Summary Report compiled by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Public comment was open from Nov. 12, 2017, until Jan. 12, 2018.

Through a Sunshine Law request, ABC 17 News has obtained comments from residents regarding racial disparities in vehicle stops by the Columbia Police Department and from city listening tours.

In 2016, black drivers were three times more likely to be pulled over than expected according to the 2017 report. The report also shows a disparity in car searches between black and white drivers. After being stopped, 17 percent of black drivers had their car searched, compared to 9 percent of white drivers.

Due to staffing and budget concerns, CPD eliminated its traffic unit in 2015. City manager Mike Matthes said the city is instead monitoring traffic during routine patrol and focusing on CPD’s Community Outreach Unit.

One unnamed respondent to the report said, “I believe the statistics are skewed due to a lack of traffic enforcement.”

Jeff Hempstead wrote, “Since the traffic unit was eliminated, I have notice [sic] more speeding and other traffic offences occurring. (Bringing back the traffic unit) would also go along with Vision Zero.”

Vision Zero is Columbia’s transportation policy goal and data-driven strategy to achieve zero traffic deaths or serious injuries on its roadways.

Although a summary was offered, the 650-plus page report itself was criticized for being too voluminous to comprehend in what some said was a short amount of time.

Rachel Taylor, of Race Matters, Friends, wrote, “The 653 pages were delivered to the City Council only two business days before they were intended to receive the report in Council. This is not enough time to review the materials.”

Nancy Cheak-Zamora wrote, “Asking for public feedback on a 654 page document not appropriate nor conducive to public engagement and feedback.”

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