Black drivers continue to be overrepresented in Columbia Police Department traffic stops, and the numbers are even worse than in 2016, Columbia Police said in a news release Thursday.
Getting ahead of the Attorney General’s planned Friday annual release of traffic stop data, the department reported a racial disparity index of 3.28 for 2017. The index is calculated by comparing the percentage of traffic stops involving black drivers to the percentage of Columbia’s population that is black.
According to the 2010 Census, black residents made up 9.96 percent of Columbia’s population. If 9.96 percent of traffic stops involved black drivers, the racial disparity index would be 1.
The racial disparity index in 2016 was 3.13. In 2015, it was 2.97.
“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 in the news release.
The Missouri Attorney General’s office collects data on demographics and traffic stops and is required by law to release the data in a Vehicle Stops report by June 1 each year.
The Attorney General’s office confirmed Thursday morning that the full 2017 report would be released on Friday. It will include information about other demographic groups and data about arrests, vehicle searches and contraband hit rates.
“The data shows that vehicle stops tend to be conducted in areas where we see the highest numbers of reported violent crime, calls for service and accidents,” Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton said in the news release.
He said officers with a high disparity index were either generally pulling over people in their assigned beat or were pulling over few people, leading to a higher disparity.
Burton repeatedly has expressed doubt about racial profiling by the police department.
The racial equity and social justice citizen group, Race Matters, Friends, has criticized Burton for his refusal to acknowledge the implications of the traffic stop data.
Last summer, representatives of the group walked out of a City Council meeting after Burton denied racial profiling by the officers in his department. The group also has called for him to resign, based on that position.
The group has called for community policing to help address the problem. The next town hall meeting on the topic is scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Boone County Historical Society, in the Montminy Art Gallery, 3801 Ponderosa St., in Columbia.