Members of the Columbia chapter of the NAACP met with a representative of the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday night in an early effort to take action in response to several complaints regarding police brutality and racial profiling involving the Columbia Police Department. The meeting was called after several black citizens of the community voiced concern over various incidents.
Tom Meade, a member of the Community Relations Service of the Justice Department, came to the meeting to hear the cases and information presented by Mary Ratliff, the president of the Columbia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and other members of the community. Ratliff said she called the meeting after observing an increased frequency in what she referred to as racial profiling.
Meade said his goal is to examine racial problems and to represent the black community’s concerns by coming up with solutions in accordance with the Police Department. He suggested doing this by creating forums, and examining and possibly improving police diversity training. However, he pointed out that the Community Relations Service does not prosecute or assign fault in legal situations.
Ratliff questioned Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm’s leadership in the Police Department.
“There have been so many incidents within the past few years that I wonder about his leadership,” she said. “I keep getting the same response that he recognizes that the department has some officers with questionable behavior. But if he knows he has officers like that, why isn’t he getting rid of them? It costs everyone for the mistakes they’re making.”
Ratliff emphasized several individual cases of police brutality and racial profiling involving the Police Department.
Meade will meet with city officials to bring racial issues to light and to take action to examine racial profiling. If these actions don’t help, the next step would be an investigation by the Justice Department. People at the meeting agreed that action to stop police brutality and racial profiling must start immediately.
“The hurt, pain and humiliation of these people trying to do the right thing tears my heart apart,” Ratliff said. “When are we going to come together as a community and fight for the rights of our people? I hope this is the beginning.”