COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia Police Chief's Vehicle Stop Committee met for the first time Tuesday since the Columbia Police Department extended its decision to primarily limit traffic stops to hazardous moving violations.
Committee members voiced support for the decision, saying it could have a positive impact on traffic stop disparities.
“They never discriminate against someone that’s speeding 30 miles an hour over the limit in a school zone. They know that they have to make the stop for a strong public safety reason so they make it," said committee member Don Love. "Where they're more likely to be distracted by racial stereotype is when there's a minor violation that they can either act on or ignore. And there the racial stereotype may distract them enough that they don't apply the same standard to everyone."
The police department is working to close the gap after data released from the State Attorney General's office showed Columbia police are more than four and a half times more likely to pull over people who are black than people who are white.
Police Chief Geoff Jones previously said he decided to extend the change to traffic stops because he did not want to wait to take action. The vehicle stop committee had not met since March because of COVID-19.
Jones told the committee Tuesday night that he planned to reach out to the University of Missouri to ask for help researching how the change to traffic stops may impact disparity numbers. The University has not agreed to do so at this time.
Pam Hardin, who is on the committee, voiced support for asking the University to do a study, but said there is a separation between the city and the university, so what works on campus may not work for CPD.
Jones told the committee they should focus on what variables they want to control when making recommendations to shape policy down the road. In the mean time, it will make short-term recommendations to the police department.
Jones also told the committee he has recommended officers have written documentation of stops.
"We have a policy, our traffic stop policy, dictates that officers will either give a written warning or a summons for every traffic stop so there is a written record of the stop," he said.
This was a new policy this year. The goal is to have written record of things because the vendor for the department's records managements system is behind on updating it.
"I had asked for written records of every stop so that we were compiling data as we went along secondary to our records management system," Jones said.
Love said this year the Attorney General's office changed the code of state regulations to require that officers be more specific in checking off investigatory stops.
"So with the updates in the Attorney General's data, the requirements for this year, our records management system was not equipped to handle that data and to document that data," Jones said.
The goal of having the more accurate records is to be able to break down data and look at disparities down the road.