Douglas County Commission to consider contract extension for study of racial breakdown of police stops
photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo
Douglas County leaders will soon consider approving additional funding to extend a study investigating the racial breakdown of traffic stops and other law enforcement contact in the county.
As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will consider authorizing an extension of the contract with Northeastern University in Boston through the end of the year for an additional cost of $43,750, according to a county staff memo to the commission. The additional cost will be divided among the five law enforcement agencies participating in the study.
The Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Douglas County, the City of Lawrence and other partners hired Northeastern University in December 2018 to conduct the study as part of a $175,000 contract. The extension of the study would bring the total cost of the study to $218,750.
As previously stipulated in the contract among the participating law enforcement agencies, Douglas County, which oversees the sheriff’s office, and the City of Lawrence, which oversees the Lawrence Police Department, will cover the vast majority of the costs. The county would be responsible for about $105,230 of the total cost of the study, while the city would be responsible for about $105,220. Baldwin City, Eudora and the University of Kansas, whose respective police departments are also participating in the study, will pay for the remaining $8,300.
Initially, the contract was to run for two years, from December 2018 to December 2020. The proposed amendment would extend the contract to Dec. 31, 2021. The memo states that the amendment to extend the contract is being brought to the commission based on direction from the commission in December 2020 and that all five of the law enforcement agencies had agreed to participate in and to fund the extension.
Initial findings from investigation of police stops were recently released after being delayed due to the pandemic. As the Journal-World reported earlier this month, early data from the law enforcement contact study shows people of color are more likely to be searched by police. The study consisted of 16,000 law enforcement stops between January 2020 and July 2021.
None of the five Douglas County law enforcement agencies previously had a process for keeping track of data regarding police contact to identify racial disparities. Researchers have said that in addition to the racial breakdown of those stopped by law enforcement, the study would look at the racial breakdown of who gets a citation versus a warning and who gets searched versus who doesn’t, and that the final report would include recommendations for addressing concerns. Researchers anticipated the final report to be complete in January or February of 2022.
In other business, the commission will consider approving a $500,000 grant agreement for a “housing first” pilot program that would seek to quickly place people experiencing homelessness in their own housing while also providing them support services. The commission was initially supposed to consider the agreement earlier this month, but it was deferred because the agreement was not ready.
The County Commission will convene at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Residents can participate in the meeting in person, virtually or via phone, and more information about those options is available at douglascountyks.org/commission/meetings.