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Citizen Oversight Committee to review all information gathered on Columbia Police Department

Saturday, May 3, 2008 | 6:24 p.m. CDT; updated 5:47 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — In the next week and a half, the Citizen Oversight Committee plans to review the information it has gathered regarding the Columbia Police Department since the committee first convened in November.

The committee received citizen complaint data from the Columbia Police Department on Thursday and began a preliminary discussion of what the data could mean. Members discussed how it should be used in their final report, which the committee will submit to the City Council for its determination on citizen oversight of the Police Department.

One thing the complaint report shows is that complaints filed by whites are 10 times more likely to be found valid than complaints made by black residents.

The report was presented to the committee by Tracy Greever-Rice, associate director of MU’s Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis. Greever-Rice analyzed 130 complaints filed by citizens against officers from 2005 to 2007.

Greever-Rice made it clear that no statistical analysis or sweeping conclusions could be made from the sample used in the report.

Greever-Rice also didn’t want to inject her opinion, even when committee members asked repeatedly what she thought the data meant. She said it was her job to organize the data she was given and that putting the data into context is the committee’s job. Greever-Rice did say the data could provide answers to the question of whether citizen oversight of the Police Department is a good idea.

“I think the most important thing to understand is that this (complaint data) is only one piece of information about the community,” Greever-Rice said.

Committee member Chris Egbert handed out a report he wrote on racial profiling and crime statistics. The committee did not read or discuss the report at the meeting.

Committee chair Rex Cambell also brought traffic stop data from 2004 through 2006. The data show that although searches of black and white drivers’ cars result in the same amount of contraband found, black drivers were searched and arrested at higher rates by police.

The committee decided that before any substantive discussion could be made about what the information means, it would be best to have the committee read the information thoroughly and continue discussion at the next meeting.

“I don’t want to say the police are racist,” committee co-chair Jeff Williams said. “What we might draw from this data is the need to improve relationships between the police and the community.”

On May 15, the committee plans to continue discussions and might hold a secret ballot vote on whether oversight of the Police Department is needed.

More information about the Citizen Oversight Committee, including the full citizen complaint data report and racial profiling and crime statistics report, can be found at gocolumbiamo.com.


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