COLUMBIA - Tuesday night, the Missouri Association of Social Welfare held its first meeting to combat racial discrimination in traffic stops. Don Love chairs the Human Rights Task Force for the Association.
The coalition includes the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Columbia Police Department, Columbia Human Rights Commission, the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative, COMO Citizens, American Civil Liberties Union and the Missouri Association for Social Welfare.
Love has been Chairman of the Human Rights Task Force for the past five years and says racial profiling is one of the bigger issues the Association deals with.
"We cover a lot of issues from sexual orientation and discrimination, but racial profiling in law enforcement is something that has come to my attention for the last couple of years," said Love.
Love has been working on ways to decrease the racial profiling for the past year, and presented a variety of ways to do so at the meeting, with a heavy emphasis on removing personal biases.
"One of the advantages of the Vehicle Stop Report is that it is easy to measure because there are so many of them," said Love.
The Vehicle Stop Report includes all cars pulled over with the exception of checkpoints. The data is collected from all police and sheriff departments in Missouri and the analysis is provided by the Department of Criminology and the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
"One of the best indicators of racial profiling is consent searches, this is where officers don't have a probable cause or a strong suspicion to search, but do it because of ethnic backgrounds and each officer must report how many of those they do."
Love said another key player to putting these meetings together came from the Columbia Police Department's Chief Ken Burton. Love said that although the Vehicle Stop Report is a good benchmark it is not concrete evidence. Columbia is listed as having more stops based on ethnic background than Boonville, Cole and Cooper counties. But Love said the information is based on a variety of factors that could alter some numbers.
Love said his main goal is to reduce the problem that is apparent in all of Missouri not just in Columbia.
Love said police officers from Kansas City will be facilitating the next meeting to teach techniques on how to become unbiased. The next meeting is October 5, 2011 at 17 N Seventh. This will be after the Attorney General's Report for Vehicle Stops for 2011.