Springfield NAACP speaks out on Missouri travel advisory

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) - The Springfield NAACP is speaking out about the travel advisory issued for Missouri for blacks and other minorities.

Springfield's spokesperson for the NAACP said there are issues with traffic stops in some communities surrounding Springfield, including Ozark, Nixa, Camdenton, Willard and Republic.

"Not to call them out, but it is what it is. We have got to hold people accountable," NAACP Springfield President, Cheryl Clay.

The Willard Police Chief is stunned NAACP spokeswoman named his community as where blacks and minorities have to watch. Racial profiling data from 2016 shows out of all the people pulled over in Willard, 2% of them were minorities. But the NAACP said that is too many.

"We can go to all the surrounding communities around Springfield and these are the calls I'm getting: they are being stopped for no reason," said Clay. "A lot of those surrounding communities, they're not doing so well. Nixa, Republic, Ozark, Willard, and Camdenton."

"Well, I was shocked," said Willard Police Chief, Tom McClain.

Willard Police Chief, Tom McClain, said the NAACP's take on the town just is not true.

"The Willard Police Department along with our brother and sisters in Southwest Missouri value deeply unbiased policing. We want people to feel the freedom to travel," McClain declared.

"I think police chiefs need to address it with their officers. They're the ones responsible," Clay said.

He and some of other Police Chiefs Clay mentioned, including Ozark's, are willing to start sitting down with Clay every year and reviewing racial profiling data - like the Springfield Police Chief does.

"It is my view that Southwest Missouri is friendly toward all races and religions, colors, and creeds," Chief McClain stated.

KSPR News got an email from the Springfield NAACP apologizing for naming the cities Tuesday morning. It said that they regret that they "mentioned specific area cities in regards to racial profiling by the police before meeting personally with the Chiefs."

The Springfield NAACP is now in discussions with these Chiefs and is in the process of setting up a group meeting with them.

The Ozark Chief of Police responded in a statement saying the following:

“The Ozark Police Department has policies in place that strictly prohibit the practice of stopping any individual solely on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ethnic group, sexual orientation, age, social or economic status, marital status, physical or mental disability, or any other characteristic protected by law for violations of vehicle laws and/or other violations of laws as a “pretext/excuse” for investigating other crimes. Along with this the Ozark Police Department goes above and beyond in educating our staff and in holding our staff accountable for any policy violations.

The Ozark Police Department employs numerous methods to ensure officers are policing in safe, legal and non-biased manner. These methods include, but are not limited to;

· Field Training Officer Program;
· Routine Incident Report reviews;
· Citizen complaint process;
· Employee performance evaluations,
· Collection, review and analysis of traffic stop data;
· Internal Investigations.

Ozark Police Department Command Staff and supervisors routinely utilizes these resources to identify any indication of discriminatory treatment to any segment of the public by individual officers, divisions and/or units. Furthermore, the Ozark Police Department mandates annual classroom and online training in the areas of racial profiling and non-biased policing for all commissioned officers.

Any violation of Ozark Police Department Policy regarding profiling of any citizen stop based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ethnic group, sexual orientation or any other characteristics protected by law will be addressed through appropriate action allowable by law, ordinance and discipline policies.

As of today’s date, the Ozark Police Department has made 2,619 traffic stops, of these traffic stops, 60 were African American; meaning, 2% of all stops were of African American’s, which is consistent with the demographics of our community. With this being said, we welcome anyone with any complaint or concern to contact the Ozark Police Department or the Chief of Police directly to express any concern. Our continuous goal is to work in a true partnership with the community we are sworn to protect and serve.”

The Republic Chief of Police responded in a statement saying the following:

“The Republic Police Department, and each of its members, takes great pride in the service that we provide to the residents of Republic and the additional thousands who work, travel and pass through our community each day. We value equality and justice for all while recognizing the racial issues and concerns throughout our nation and our part in working to remove bias and discrimination. We believe in dialogue and communication of factual information with specificity so that injustices can be addressed quickly and appropriately. We provide training to our Police Officers on discrimination and bias and will not tolerate that kind of behavior by those who serve the public.

After today’s news conference by the Springfield NAACP, I reached out and spoke with Ms. Clay about the concerns she expressed about Republic and other Greene County and Christian County communities and how we could work together to dispel innuendos and get to the facts of her concerns. We intend to meet next week to discuss how we can work together, using factual information, to address issues specific to the Springfield regional area.

Republic, like all other communities in this region, takes complaints of biased policing very seriously and all complaints are thoroughly investigated. To that end, Republic has taken the step of having Patrol Officers wear body cameras, in addition to our patrol fleet having in car cameras, in the last year to assist the public with complaints of officers and assist in resolving unsubstantiated complaints by the public. That kind of technology does not resolve every complaint but it does hold accountable Officers and the public for their actions, something that Ms. Clay asked for today in the news conference.

I’m encouraged by the dialogue between Ms. Clay and me today and want the public to know that despite the NAACP’s Travel Ban in Missouri, everyone is treated equally travelling in and through the City of Republic.”

The Nixa Police Chief issued the following statement:

“Let there be no doubt, the Nixa Police Department values diversity. We are devoted to and believe strongly in the values and ideals of equality and justice for all. We strive to serve and support all people in our community with empathy and compassion while upholding the law. We do not promote, nor would we accept any culture of discrimination in our department. We are aware of the long history of racial strife in this nation and we take seriously the ever-urgent need for law enforcement to be proactive in doing our part towards eradicating racial injustice.

The Nixa Police Department policy on traffic stops is based solely on violations of the law. We would not hire any officer who displayed or promoted racial discrimination. All our officers are required to attend training specifically designed to remind them that it is unacceptable to discriminate in any way. We also welcome opportunities to reinforce the values of equal and fair application of the law.

Any allegation of biased policing would be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. I welcome dialogue with anyone who has concerns about this or any other police matter. If any citizen would like to see the inner-workings of our department, we welcome them to visit our department, meet our officers, or attend our Citizen Police Academy. We believe in transparency. I hold my department to a high ethical standard and I absolutely agree with the NAACP that every American should know and protect their rights.”

KSPR News reached out to Camdenton Police Tuesday and so far have not yet heard back from their Chief.

In an email, NAACP Springfield sent KSPR News the following:

“Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel will be posting a full travel advisory guide on the Missouri State Conference website presently, scheduled for some time in the next 24 hours.

" I also regret that during today's press conference I mentioned specific area cities in regards to racial profiling by the police before meeting personally with the chiefs. I have already entered discussion with an area chief and we are in the process of scheduling a group meeting in the very near future. "

"I welcome civil dialogue with any concerned individuals. After all, our goal is that all individuals in our state be treated with dignity and respect."

The Travel Advisory is not a boycott but rather is a warning that Missouri is not a safe place for travel or work for people of color. The Springfield Missouri branch of the NAACP appreciates the support of the National NAACP in drawing attention to the conditions in Missouri. Our ongoing issues of racial profiling, discrimination, harassment, and excess violence towards people of color have been further exacerbated by the passage and signing of SB43, which rolls back civil rights protections for employees and whistle blowers, says Cheryl Clay, President of the NAACP Springfield Branch.

I am very sad that the Missouri Legislature chose to rush through this bill, SB43, and that Governor Greitens chose to sign it. It makes it nearly impossible to file and win a discrimination lawsuit. The Springfield NAACP regularly receives complaints from local employees who have been subjected to racially abusive incidents, says Clay.

One of the many things I find especially troubling is that this bill only allows recourse if the employer is directly involved when many incidents are actually perpetrated by supervisors. We try to resolve these highly charged complaints and the threat of a lawsuit is sometimes the primary motivation to improve the situation, says Clay.

Now, I am very concerned about where protections for workers and whistle-blowers are going to come from in our state. This legislation is Jim Crow legislation, says Clay.

Organizations could be much less motivated to continue to do the hard work of combating institutional racism and its manifestations in the work place and on the streets, says Clay.

“Locally, we have been working closely with Chief Williams and we as a city need to recognize that we have to be able to attract and keep quality officers. Not all the communities have the desire or the will to do the right thing for people in their community. Thus, this is why Missouri has earned the travel advisory for the whole state.

Missouri Senate Bill 43 was supposed to put Missouri in line with federal rules but it goes much further. (See employment section below.) Additionally, states are allowed to have more protections than federal law.

It rolls back decades of civil right protections for employees and whistle-blower protections.

The bill legalizes individual discrimination by weakening and removing laws that would hold violators accountable for discrimination and harassment based on sex, age, disabilities, national origin, race and religion.

Missouri currently does not have LGBTQA+ protections. Attempts to amend this bill to include LGBTQ+ protections and religious protections failed. In fact the bill had to be approved without any amendments by the Missouri House or it would have been sent back to the Missouri Senate where it would have been filibustered.

Employment

It is now much more difficult to sue and win a discrimination case because the plaintiff has to prove discrimination is the motivating factor, not a motivating factor

Lawsuits now cannot name a supervisor or another employee in a case but have to name the business owner

Whistle-blowers
Although it seems to create protection the details reveal otherwise:

The new law severely limits awards and benefits to whistle-blowers and doesn’t allow any punitive damages despite the fact whistle blowers often suffer long-term damage to their careers.

These changes make life on the job more dangerous because employees will be less likely to report dangerous conditions:
Less likely to have recourse against harassment, including sexual harassment.

Less likely to have recourse and therefore will be less likely report dangerous physical conditions, illegal processes, improper handling of products.

What happens when we severely limit the right to legal recourse? People can be exploited much more easily.

As Rod Chapel states, “What kind of businesses will Missouri attract? Are we expected to believe that a state that doesn’t value diversity and something so basic that workers, friends, and neighbors should be treated with dignity and respect will make Missouri more attractive to the types of industries that offer better paying jobs?”

“One of the many things I find especially troubling is that this bill only allows recourse if the employer is directly involved when many incidents are actually perpetrated by supervisors. We try to resolve these highly charged complaints and the threat of a lawsuit is sometimes the primary motivation to improve the situation, says Cheryl Clay.

Now, I am very concerned about where protections for workers and whistle-blowers are going to come from in our state. This legislation is Jim Crow legislation, says Clay.

Travel Advisory not just from SB43 but has been a long time coming, says Clay.

We have long term problems that have been building that add to looming danger:

· Racial profiling by police—People of Color are 75% more likely to be pulled over and searched even though they are proportionally responsible for fewer crimes than whites
· Excessive force by police and jails—not just people of color but also those with mental illness
· Hate crimes in Missouri
· Lack of public defenders that leave people in prison or having to take a plea when innocent
· Inequities in sentencing
· The politics of austerity have gutted many of our safety net services, we are 50th in public health funding, for example
· Inequities in funding our schools which further limits opportunities
· Inequities in funding infrastructure—and that’s not just roads and bridges, but it is investing in our neighborhoods and our people
· New stand your ground law makes it much more dangerous for people of color in our state

People of color, the differently abled, LGBTQ+ people, people of faith, and other historically marginalized populations generally cannot count on the authorities to protect their well-being in this state and SB43 is a prime example.