SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– The mask ordinance wasn’t the only pressing topic discussed at the Springfield city council meeting last night. Springfield NAACP members, like president Toni Robinson and vice president Adrienne Denson Ewell, stuck around late to voice their demands for police accountability. Specifically relating to the Springfield Police Department.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Robinson said. “The Springfield Police Department, they present to us, the NAACP, their traffic stop [data] every year.”
Robinson is in the second year of their two-year tenure. Robinson has only met with Chief Paul Williams once to discuss traffic stops and around the time of Ferguson protests in 2014, the Springfield NAACP began meeting with SPD annually to discuss traffic stops.
“From the data and just from the meetings that I’ve had, there’s just this complacency that is there,” Robinson said. “There’s this silence that we’re not really dealing with the systemic racism and the dismantling that needs to take place in terms of the data itself.”
That data Robinson is referring to comes from Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office. 2020 disparity reports have been released and Robinson says Springfield has a disparity index of 2.71. Missouri’s disparity index is 1.78. One of the three Springfield NAACP demands was reducing the city’s disparity index to 1.
The NAACP plans to meet with Police Chief Paul Williams to discuss the report in the next few weeks.
“[Disparity] means that black folks are disproportionately affected by traffic stops, by arrests even,” Robinson said. “The data is continually harming black folks, people of color, anyone who is marginalized. There is not anything being addressed. There is not anything being done. We are just meeting for meetings’ sake.”
Another demand is banning chokeholds or any form of neck restraints.
“That comes out of the George Floyd murder that took place in Minneapolis several weeks ago now,” Robinson said. “In my opinion, personally, that is giving officers the OK to kill someone. Unless the officer has received medical training or understanding of what components are in a neck, they’re suffocating a human.”
On the Springfield Police Department’s transparency website called “Where We Stand,” SPD addresses this in their “Use of Force” policy: “The Springfield Police Department prohibits chokeholds unless the officer is in a lethal force encounter. Each use of force is documented in a police report.”
It’s a policy Robinson disagrees with.
“I don’t believe that chokeholds should be okay,” Robinson said. “I don’t think it’s just at all.”
The NAACP’s third demand is reforming the city’s police civilian review board. The board was established by Springfield City Council in 1999 to review and comment to the city council about police conduct matters.
“It has not really served the purpose of standing up for its citizens,” Robinson said. “We are asking that it be completely redone in terms of who is in charge of it, who appoints people to the review board and also what action and what the relationship should be to the community.”
Overall, the Springfield NAACP is demanding the Springfield Police Department be held accountable.
“From personally being a black citizen in Springfield, most black folks I encounter are afraid to file a complaint, or they have absolutely no trust in the police department,” Robinson said. “That’s something that me and [former NAACP chapter president] have said to the Chief several times.
KOLR10 reached out to the Springfield Police Department for comment. Public information officer Jasmine Bailey says, “while the city council meeting was the first time we were made aware of the demands of the Springfield’s NAACP, we hear their concerns and look forward to having a productive conversation.”
The Springfield NAACP chapter and the Springfield Police Department plan to meet early next week.