Columbia police might soon need written consent to search cars

5 months 2 days 7 hours ago August 18, 2016 Aug 18, 2016 Thursday, August 18 2016 Thursday, August 18, 2016 6:47:00 PM CDT in News
By: Austin Hough, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA - A new method for searching pulled over cars might soon be in use around Columbia.

The Columbia Police Department might soon pass a policy requiring officers to get written consent from the person they pull over before searching their car. 

Dan Viets, the President of the Missouri Civil Liberties Association (MOCLA), wrote a letter to CPD Chief Ken Burton, urging the department to pass this type of policy.

Viets, who is also a lawyer, said, in part, "In my 30 years of representing defendants involved in vehicle stops and searches, it has been my observation that most citizens do not realize that they have any alternative when a police officer requests permission to search.  Most people who give such 'consent' are simply trying to be cooperative and assume that the request is actually an order."

A new policy, according to Viets, would help determine in a court case if consent to search was indeed given.

"It actually makes the job of the prosecutor easier if he's gotten a written consent form from a suspect, or a defendant," Viets said.

Viets also said he believes having this policy in place will help decrease the gap between the amount of white people pulled over as opposed to African-Americans or any other minority. 

"If they adopt this policy, it's an attempt to respond to concerns that have been expressed about not only racial profiling in terms of traffic stops, but racial profiling in terms of who's car gets searched after the traffic stop," Viets said. "And the racial disparities are, at least in some cases, even greater, in terms of who gets searched."

Viets said he spoke with Burton on Thursday morning and Burton indicated the department is considering this type of policy. 

KOMU 8 News reached out to Burton for comment, but he was unavailable.

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