City council discusses racial profiling and policing

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council met for a special work session Thursday about concerns about racial disparities in policing stemming from the 2017 Vehicle Stops Report, or VSR. 

According to the report, the projected disparity index for African Americans rose from 3.13 in 2016 to 3.28 in 2017, touching off conversations about racial discrepancies in policing.

The disparity index measures the percentage of traffic stops of members of a group against the number of driving-age individuals in the group.

Latonya Nichols said she knows people who claim they've been pulled over because of their race. 

"I do have people around me that have experienced it but most of them are males, young, between 20 and 30-years-old," she said. "They call it racial profiling because they're young black males and they're just being stopped and being harassed."

Nichols said she thinks there are other factors that might be a part of why people are stopped.

"They call it racial profiling," she said. "I call it what time are you out? What area are you in? Is it a high crime rate?

But a study from an MU economics professor said the raw data from the 2017 Vehicle Stops Report doesn't show evidence of racial profiling.

Professor Jeff Miylo's research found the VSR data and disparity index doesn't help determine whether there is racial profiling.

"Overall, despite persistent and growing disparities in vehicle stops and searches in Columbia, there is no consistent evidence of systemic racial bias by the CPD across stops, citations, arrests and searches, nor is there any evidence of an increase in racial bias in stops or post-stop outcomes from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017," he wrote in the report.

Columbia Police Officers Association Executive Director Dale Roberts said the data actually show how good of a job CPD officers are doing.

"It shows, a, that the officers are engaging in very effective, productive stops, where they find people for who there's a warrant pending and people who have illegal contraband, and that their work is quite good," he said.

During their discussion, the city council heard from CPD officers, the group Race Matters Friends and the CEO of Fair and Partial Policing LLC.

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