TODAY'S QUESTION: Do you think Columbia's policing has a racial bias?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | 12:52 p.m. CDT

On Wednesday, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare is sponsoring a panel discussion on racially biased policing in the Columbia Police Department. According to an article in the Missourian, the panel will include Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton and the president of Columbia’s NAACP chapter as well as an expert on racially biased policing. It will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Activities and Recreation Center.

The article indicates that the Missouri Association for Social Welfare finds this type of policing to be an issue in Missouri and is using a grant received last year to further explore the problem.

The Police Department tracks the number and types of stops made each year based on race, and the 2009 statistics can be found in a link available in this Missourian article. The data is separated into the following racial groups: white, black, Hispanic, Native American and other.

A presentation given by MU professor Jeff Milyo in 2008 concludes that, while disparities by race in Columbia traffic stops and complaint data do exist, the data does not indicate disparities in the treatment of the races, specifically “blacks relative to whites.”

Do you think Columbia’s policing has a racial bias?

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Alice Weiss July 21, 2010 | 2:23 p.m.

Everything in Columbia has a racial bias. I find the community here to be more biased and prejudiced and physically segregated than in any town in the Deep South - large or small - that I have lived in. It's just hidden here - behind closed doors - whispered - covered up with politically-correct euphemisms. So I see no reason why the policing shouldn't be just as biased.

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lacinda florez July 21, 2010 | 2:26 p.m.

I don't think the police department in Columbia has a racial bias. This is obserd, if ten black or hispanic and five white people are doing something wrong should the police go ask five more with people do also commit a crime just so the numbers will match up? Or they could just overlook the crimes of five of the hispanic and black people so as to not be accused of being racially motivated??? What do we want?

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Mike Martin July 21, 2010 | 4:18 p.m.

Ironically, the Columbia Police Department may be the least segregated thing about Columbia, so in that regard I disagree with Alice Weiss.

But her other points are absolutely on point. In virtually every other aspect, this town is hugely segregated, and to someone who's not from around here -- like me -- it's not subtle at all.

So entrenched are these racial divisions that in various op-eds, the newspaper publisher at that other paper has frequently pined for -- yes, wished for, longed for, and reminisced about -- the good old days of segregation, when the black man essentially kept his place, down by the clickety-clack of the railroad tracks or in the underfunded, blacks-only schools.

Entire, once officially-segregated areas of this city are still digging out from the land clearance, the infrastructure neglect, and the deep psychological biases that divided South of Broadway from North of Broadway, and black from white.

All you have to do to see it persist is look around. Look at that huge chain-link fence in front of Douglass High School. That huge, prison-like fence around the public housing projects.

Consider the tearing down of that pedestrian overpass from the projects across Providence toward town, with no substantive plan to replace the crossing.

And now I hear of a plan to permanently shut down one of two fire trucks at the Columbia Fire Station Two on Worley Street.

Worley Street, in and around a traditionally black neighborhood.

IMHO, the police and the public schools get the brunt of the white community's wrongheadedness here. They're our chosen whipping posts for the ongoing injustices this system of divisions created.

Are there lots of young black males in trouble with the law here? Yes.

Are there lots of young black males who grew up in isolation, on rented land that used to belong to their kin, under the roofs of slumlords, on poorly-drained, poorly-lit streets in the glare of a community that continually congratulates itself on its high-minded approach to race relations?


That's not an excuse, but it ought to be a guide. And one indication that
blaming the cops for the lose-lose-lose situations this backward thinking has created is sheer lunacy.

Fixing the stuff Alice Weiss calls out would be a far better, far more successful and lasting approach.

(Report Comment)
lacinda florez July 21, 2010 | 4:30 p.m.

To Mike Martin I as a hispanic woman grew up in the publuc housing you talk about. I went to Douglass High. I also decided I would not settle for that kind of life, I worked to better myself and now have a house north of Broadway! All it takes is a bit of hard work and it can be done. I feel like I am walking talking proof that it can be done if you want it bad enough! So you can can make excuses but thats all it is excuses.

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Mike Martin July 21, 2010 | 5:14 p.m.


I'm glad to hear you made your escape from "that kind of life," which I assume means life in our largely segregated public housing projects.

But your view of my comments as no more than "excuses" to be overcome is simplistic and short-sighted. I spent many a childhood year in public housing and on Section 8. I, too, worked to better myself, though I've never looked at it as an issue of making excuses or not.

We overcome injustices by recognizing them and changing them, not merely escaping from their grasp.

(Report Comment)
Dale Jones July 21, 2010 | 9:57 p.m.
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Dale Jones July 21, 2010 | 9:59 p.m.
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lacinda florez July 23, 2010 | 1:58 p.m.

Mike when was the last time you took a stroll through our public housing?? It's largely diverse and so many people wait on lists for months to mooch off of the tax payers of this city! It's always easier to blame the injustices for what we don't have. I know several people who live in public housing because it's a nice way to make a living (sitting at home and collecting a monthly check for the children they can't afford in the first place.) Oh but we got off track LET'S TAKE IT BACK A STEP, IT'S THE FAULT ENTIRELY OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT! Yes let's blame the police... you know the one's we call in an emergency!

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