Columbia Police and Community Seek Public Input on Bias in Policing

The Columbia Police Department and a coalition known as the Bias Free Columbia Coalition are seeking public input on the issue of racial bias in traffic stops.<!--more-->

The two groups hosted on the issues Tuesday night.

KBIA’s Amrita Jayakumar has this report.

Police Chief Ken Burton says the first way to tackle bias in policing is to acknowledge that it exists.

<em>Those of you in the room who are human beings, know that we all bring our own personal biases to the table. And it’s something that I have, in my 30 years of law enforcement, always not understood.</em>

At the second in a series of public forums on the issue, Columbia Police Department data analyst Jerry East presented and explained Columbia’s traffic stop data for the year 2010. But East says traffic-stop data is not a reliable indicator of racial profiling, and he doesn’t believe it’s occurring in the Columbia Police Department.

This data doesn’t–I’m gonna come out and say it–this data doesn’t say if we are or we aren’t racially profiling. It won’t, because there’s not enough factors within the data to say if we are or not. I cannot sit up here and say that statistically we are not but I can say I feel that we don’t.

The Police Department and the coalition are looking to the public for suggestions on improvements for data collection and ways to develop racial sensitivity.

The Missouri Association of Social Welfare’s Don Love says the police and community need to work together to recognize bias and rise above it.
We’re setting up this expectation that the police have a lot to learn, but really our expectation is the whole community has a lot to learn.

The coalition is arranging a meeting with the Islamic Center of Central Missouri in November – that meeting will also be open to the public.