COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia Police Chief's Vehicle Stop Committee met Tuesday evening to break down data on traffic stops, find explanations on why racial disparities are happening, and try to work past them.
According to the data from the Missouri Attorney General's Annual report on traffic stops, Black drivers in Missouri were pulled over 71.6% more than white drivers in 2020. That is down from 93.6% in 2019 when the disparity hit its highest from 2000 on.
According to data in the 2020 Missouri Vehicle Stops Report from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, Black drivers continue to be pulled over disproportionately in Columbia and Boone County.
Black people make up 10.3 percent of Columbia’s driving-age population but were the subjects of 35.2 percent of Columbia Police Department traffic stops in 2020. This means Black drivers were pulled over 3.41 times as much as expected based on population.
This rate is lower than the rate in 2019, which at 3.51 was the largest disparity index on record for the Police Department.
In Boone County, Black drivers make up 8.4 percent of the driving population but represent 26 percent of traffic stops.
That’s nearly 3.1 times more stops than expected. That disparity rate was also down from a Sheriff’s Department high of 3.53 in 2019.
Committee member, Don Love says, "The big problem for the last 30 years has been increasingly officers are told they can act on suspicion, and when they act on suspicion, it's the suspicions of Black people that end up taking charge."
CPD Assistant Chief John Gordon says, "We do not teach any of our officers to stop a vehicle without a law violation or reasonable suspicion, and we do teach about biases."
Data shows there are two beats that police officers drive that have higher disparities than other areas of Columbia. Beat 70, or east campus, and 70D, which is downtown. She said that research looked at the average from 2017 to 2019 for stops in those areas.
There is also a major disparity in traffic stops and the number of traffic violations, such as speeding, that end up turning into something more.
For example, in Beat 20, which is central Columbia, Love said that 57 of the 70 odor searches were Black drivers.
Committee member, Jerome Sally, says, "We're seeing too much major impact out of a basic traffic stop. Black people and people of color are not being treated equally to white people that are driving, and until there's a balance to this, we're going to have a problem.
During the meeting on Tuesday, studies concluded that the odds that the stopped driver is Black is almost 50 percent higher at night. Data also shows that younger/newer officers are more likely to pull over Black motorists.
Gordon says the average experience of officers on patrol right now is under 4-5 years, and on the night shift, it is under 2 years.
Chief Geoff Jones said the department has been reviewing its policies and working on long-term fixes to the issues with the research team and committee looking at the data.
Jones previously said having the vehicle stop committee and external research team is one step.
"Implementing those changes is another step," Jones said. "We have a public input in our policies. We've had public input in our practices as far as the vehicle stops committee."