New bill to improve racial bias in police force


Skyler Froese

Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed (city of St. Louis) co-sponsored the bill to improve Columbia police officer training.
The state of Missouri has recently experienced bountiful controversy surrounding racism and injustice. Between the events in Ferguson in 2015 and the protests on the University of Missouri, Columbia campus in November, the state became a hotbed of unrest. In response to the chaos, Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal sponsored The Fair and Impartial Policing Act to the Missouri State senate in hopes to stop any unfair profiling of citizens by police. Senator Jamilah Nasheed is a co-sponsor to the bill, and her legal counselor, Blake Lawrence, highlights the bill’s purpose to help protect citizens.
“The Act will require law enforcement agencies to track their own statistics about who they stop and who they charge,” Lawrence said. “The Act gives the Attorney General of Missouri the power to withhold state funds and to de-certify law enforcement agencies who consistently engage in biased policing practices.”
Lawrence said the bill is intended to curb any discriminatory trends found in municipal police forces. He states that data collected since 2000 shows a pattern of officers targeting African Americans in certain parts of the state. Columbia Police Department Public relations officer, Latisha Stroer, shared that the Columbia police force has been undergoing sensitivity training for years. According to Stroer they also thoroughly examine the data from every arrest down to the time of day and the gender of the arrested to try to find any concerning trends.
The training that we received allows the officers the understanding of other cultures and recognize bias. It always allows officers some reasons why this training is important,” Stroer said. “Operations would stay the same for the Columbia Police Department. Every year we do racial profile training and every two years we do cultural diversity training.”
Not every part of the state has had the fortune of a conscientious police force, and even in places with programs like the CPD, there is still mistrust of the police. Lawrence said that reason for the mistrust can be found before the events of Ferguson unraveled.
However, senior Christina Banton sees how those events played into public distrust and the need for the bill. She believes it can help ease some of people’s trepidation.  
I think it’s to improve police officers so they’re more trusted, which would then improve crime rates, because they’d actually be helpful which would then improve society,” Banton said. “It would change how people would react to things like the Michael Brown shooting and stuff like that because then they would be like, ‘This person is trained not to do that therefore they should actually go to jail,’ because then it’s obvious that they did it because of race, not just because of safety.”
The bill has yet to pass, and it faces opposition from more conservative senate members. Despite potential roadblocks ahead, Lawrence hopes the bill will receive support for the good of all Missourians.
“As with any bill, there are valid and well-reasoned arguments on both sides. Many policing agencies feel that the practices they have employed for years are working well for the communities they serve,” Lawrence said. “The fact is, many of those agencies are 100 percent correct. However, the actions of a few bad agencies, and indeed a few individuals, make this Act necessary to weed out the bad apples and uphold the civil rights of all Missourians.”