Observer: Greg Wurst
The Riley County Law Board met at noon on Monday, October 16, 2017. The consent agenda and officers not having to shave during December to raise money for Shop with a Cop were approved.
The local Unitarian Universalist minister and Dr. John Exdell showed statistics that they said showed a bias by RCPD for arresting more blacks than whites for using marijuana, usually through pretextual stops. A book by Dr. Epp of KU which purported to show this in the Lawrence/KC area was cited. Dr. Exdell said his statistics had been adjusted to take the populations of Manhattan and the class of the vehicle in the stop into consideration. Several in attendance gave anecdotal evidence of treatment they thought was discriminatory by the RCPD, one of whom attended our Lunch with the League the next day. Chief Schoen said often guns or drugs from other jurisdictions were involved or RCPD wants to know that address of who is driving the car. Detective Johnson, representing the police officer’s union thanked Dr. Exdell for his concerns then mentioned that this was the fourth time he had been before the Law Board. He said some of the statistics had been taken from Facebook which was not a reliable source and that with the transient student and military populations in Manhattan it could not be comparable to Lawrence or KC, due in part to age and socioeconomic factors.
In an effort to solve this question a committee was formed to look at all police reports and garner certain statistics to prove or disprove the issue. Committee members would come from MAPJ, RCPD and the Law Board. Chief Schoen said this had been tried at the state level unsuccessfully and it would take quite a while. Three to four months was mentioned as a timeframe to decide what information to collect, but Chief Schoen said he would be out of town for a week in October and November so it would take longer.
The Board went into executive session for 15 minutes then adjourned at 2:30