Vehicle Stops Report data causes concerns

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COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia released a portion of the data from the 2017 Vehicle Stops Report about the Columbia police department on Thursday.

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. 

In the press release, City Manager Mike Matthes said while data analysis is ongoing, they city is sensitive to citizen concerns.

"We continue to look at data and we have not seen an apparent pattern of profiling, however, we acknowledge that some community members have experiences with officers that make them have negative feelings and perceptions about police," City Manager Mike Matthes said.

Some community members are not satisfied with the city's response. Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, president of the organization Race Matters, Friends said she's tired of hearing the same things over and over again. 

"This is the same response the city gave last year so. Last year we considered it a non-response and I think this year is also a non-responsive response." 

Val DeBrunce is a Columbia retiree. He said while he saw the preliminary release, he thinks more analysis is needed to draw more complete conclusions.

"I think you need to know more about the categories of the vehicle stops before you really draw much in the way of conclusions."

DeBrunce said looking at certain trends in vehicle stops can help explain whether racial profiling is a problem. 

"Do we have a lot of equipment violations? How is that compared year over year? Are equipment violations going up? Is expire insurance violations going up?," DeBrunce said. "I just think there are ways to parse the data that might be a better reflection of whether or not there is racial profiling."

However, Wilson-Kleepkamp said the lack of an answer from the city about the racial policing disparities is unacceptable. 

"The question they have to answer is, 'Why do you have a racial disparity in so many categories of your policing?'. And they have yet to answer that."

The report also said 85 percent of all traffic stops resulted in a warning and not a ticket, and the number of consent searches dropped from 2016 to 2017. 

Mike Matthes will speak about the full report at the State of the City Speech Friday.