Columbia Police to open up police data to citizens

Related Story

COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department will begin to be more transparent with citizens after announcing Thursday it has joined the White House-led Police Data Initiative.

The White House launched PDI in May 2015 as a response to President Obama's task force on 21st-century policing. Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton reached out to White House Personnel in April to talk about the department joining the initiative.

"Our focus as a department has and will continue to be serving our community fairly and effectively," Burton said.

This initiative allows the department to release open data sets to the public, including information on racial profiling and officer-involved shootings.

"Having open data sets will only increase transparency and foster healthy, trusting relationships with our citizens," Burton said.

Columbia is the second department in Missouri to join, following the city of St. Louis Police Department. The department is also one of 129 jurisdictions nationwide to join PDI.

Lorenzo Lawson, executive director of the Youth Empowerment Zone, said he thinks this data will help to build a better relationship among minorities in the community.

"I think the more accountability that we can put in place, is going to make the whole system better," Lawson said. "I commend Chief Burton and the city manager of what they're trying to bring a solution to a problem."

A 2015 report showed 5.5 black adults are arrested for every white adult in Columbia. For juveniles, the black-to-white arrest rate disparity is 5.4.

"We've got to admit that this is happening regardless of why are we stopping them more than we are whites. Bottom line is, African-American is a small percentage of the population here in Columbia and to be stopped twice as much, there's a problem with that. That's targeting," Lawson said. 

The department said it plans to release the data within the next couple of months. People can download, sort, search and analyze the data for their own needs.

All data sets will be available on the department's website.