In March, five listening sessions were conducted with Jefferson City residents regarding interactions between their community and the Jefferson City Police Department. A subsequent survey was taken by the participants.
The racial makeup of those surveyed were as follows:
- 20 African Americans
- 35 European Americans
- 2 individuals who did not disclose their race
The genders of those surveyed were as follows:
- 25 males
- 31 females
- 1 gender-non-binary
Those surveyed resided in the following wards:
- 23 resided in the First Ward
- 5 resided in the Second Ward
- 2 resided in the Third Ward
- 5 resided in the Fourth Ward
- 19 resided in the Fifth Ward
The survey responses indicate that an individual’s interaction with the Jefferson City Police Dept., and their view of that interaction, is largely shaped by the color of their skin and the Ward in which they reside, which are directly correlated. The overwhelming majority of African American participants reside in the Fifth Ward, while the overwhelming majority of European American participants reside in the First Ward.
Of the 19 individuals who resided in the Fifth Ward, 17 of them believed they were treated unfairly by the police during their most recent interaction. 16 of these 17 were African American.
Of the 23 individuals from the First Ward, only one believed they had been treated unfairly by the police during their interaction. Nine had not had a recent enough interaction with the police to recall whether they were treated fairly or not.
Of the 18 African Americans who offered suggestions for the police regarding their approach to interacting with the public, 12 believed that relationships with the public could be improved if police officers were to “stop assuming” that community members were engaged in illegal behavior without clear evidence, and “treat [African Americans] fairly”.
Of the 20 African Americans surveyed, 15 had interacted with the police in the last two years, and 11 had that interaction because they were stopped or pulled over by the police. None had called the police to report a crime or for help or assistance.
Of the 35 European Americans surveyed, 23 had interacted with the police in the last two years, and two had that interaction because they were stopped or pulled over by the police. One was arrested for participating in a protest. 15 had called the police, or had a neighbor call the police, to report a crime or for help or assistance.
Responses also showed a significant disparity in the way those surveyed viewed the police presence in their respective communities. While over half of Fifth ward residents believe their communities are “Over-Policed”, almost all First ward residents believe their communities are “Adequately Policed” or “Under-Policed”. No First ward residents surveyed believe that their community is Over-Policed, and no Fifth ward residents believe that their community is Under-Policed. It is clear that there is a public perception, whether correct or not, that police have a higher presence in areas of the city with more African American residents.
The Central-Lincoln University Chapter of Empower Missouri will continue to meet with police officials to discuss ways to promote bias-free policing and police safety.
The photo used in social media promotion of this article comes from Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
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