Columbia police: Arrests up, use of force down

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:40 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 12, 2009
A report by the Columbia Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit shows an increase in arrests and a decrease in use of force from the first to the second quarter.

COLUMBIA — Police used less force but made more arrests between April 1 and July 30 than in the first quarter of this year, according to a quarterly report from the Columbia Police Department's Professional Standards Unit.

The report, released Tuesday, shows that police made 2,066 arrests, compared to 1,374 in the first quarter. Officers made 39,390 contacts with citizens, up from 36,548 in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, use of force by officers was lower than in the first quarter. There were 57 uses of force in the second quarter, compared with 92 in the first quarter. Officers discharged a firearm 13 times in the first quarter and 10 times in the second quarter. The use of pepper spray by officers fell from 33 uses in the first quarter to 13 uses in the second quarter.

Police have not used batons this year; they used them twice in 2008.

There have been 149 total uses of force so far this year, compared to 279 total in 2008. There were 5,401 total arrests in 2008 and 3,440 so far this year.

Columbia Police Lt. John White, commander of the Professional Standards Unit, said the weather plays a significant role in the increase of police contacts with citizens and arrests in the second quarter because more people are out. He said he expected to see this number of contacts and arrests to rise more in the fall when the city’s population swells with the arrival of students.

White said he couldn’t explain why police used more force during the first quarter, but he said he expected the rate of firearm use to increase in the third quarter because officers will routinely find deer that have been injured by automobiles and need to “be put down.”

Officers used Tasers 13 times during the second quarter and nine times during the first quarter. Using the Taser is defined as either deploying the device, displaying the device’s laser sight or giving a “spark demonstration.”

White said police have used the Taser’s laser sight more often, which has resulted in fewer deployments of the device. He also said increased media attention has given residents more information about the device and its effects.

The device was deployed 32 times in 2008 and four times in the first half of 2009. In that same time period, the laser sight was used 12 times, compared to nine times in 2008.

Deputy Chief Tom Dresner said Friday in an e-mail that there have been 14 Taser incidents since May 1. In four of those incidents, a person was shot with a Taser.

The Professional Standards Unit was formed in February 2008 and began collecting and reporting quarterly data this year.

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