Columbia interim police chief Geoff Jones is seeking to assemble a work group to examine the Vehicle Stop Report Data released by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Jones spoke to Columbia City Council Monday night about the effort and about the recent changes he’s made to the police department.
The working group would examine the racial disparities found in the Vehicle Stop Report Data released by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. The group would examine the data, find gaps and ultimately provide suggestions to Jones for the police department to improve its service.
Don Love, the co-chair of the Empower Missouri Human Rights Task Force, told the council during public comment that the group could help address race disparity in traffic stops found in the 2018 city survey and Vehicle Stop Report.
“We know that there’s this huge disproportion, but we don’t know what’s causing it,” Love said. “If we can come up with things that do explain it, then residents will know that it’s not bias that’s causing it but something else. And if you know what it is, you can address it.”
Jones said the department is holding interest meetings and seeking people from diverse backgrounds to help them analyze the data.
Jones said the Columbia Police Department has had issues of trust internally, and it translated into the way they interact with the public. One change he’s made to help with the issue is having public police policy meetings. He said the department has hosted two meetings so far and has made changes to policies based on public feedback.
Other changes Jones made include officers reviewing and taking tests about policies, speeding up internal affairs like investigations and a new database to track uses of force, complaints and pursuits.
“Each employee has been given expectations that include solving problems, building trust and fostering community relationships,” Jones said. “We’ve talked about where they fit into the organization, where they will fit into the organization and what types of training they’ll need to get there,” Jones said.
Jones said he is also working on recruitment efforts. Currently, the department has nine vacancies, which Jones said will soon increase to 11 by March 15.