Mother of black driver vows to fight after Blue Springs officer cleared of profiling

A Blue Springs woman wasn’t surprised when the police department recently exonerated an officer in a racial profiling complaint.

But she vowed to continue her advocacy efforts. Lori Ross said the police complaint process is flawed.

“It is clearly conflictual in that it is basically the police policing themselves,” she said.

On June 3, her son James Ross, who is black, was followed by a Blue Springs officer and stopped for making a right hand turn into the left lane. He was issued a warning, but not a ticket.

In Missouri, black drivers were 91% more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, according to an annual report from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. In Blue Springs, black drivers were 175% more likely to be stopped than white drivers.

While Lori Ross doesn’t dispute the traffic violation itself, she said there wasn’t a valid reason for the officer to be following her son in the first place.

Blue Springs Police Chief Bob Muenz said thorough internal investigations are conducted for such complaints and in this case, the officer was exonerated.

The general process includes reviewing the complaint, gathering statements and reviewing evidence, including video and audio files. The detective also looks at the history of the officer. After the facts are reviewed, a determination is made.

“We take all complaints of this nature seriously and we do not tolerate it and if it was there, we would take care of business,” Muenz said.

When a complaint arises, the department takes time to evaluate the situation, Muenz said, but no substantial changes were being considered regarding racial profiling.

Later this year, the Anti-Defamation League will take part in the department’s annual training on implicit bias and diversity.

But Lori Ross wants the department to do more to shift its policing approach. In a previous interview, Muenz said James Ross’ traffic stop involved criminal profiling, a legal tactic said to be utilized for crime prevention.

“If you’re an officer in that department and your chief has set a tone that we are to go out and try to prevent crime from happening by targeting people who look suspicious, then you’ve already created the ideal environment in which racial profiling can grow,” Lori Ross said.

She said she plans on appealing the internal investigation’s finding and may pursue legal action.

She also intends to speak at an Aug. 1 hearing prompted by the Missouri attorney general’s report. That event will take place at the Robert J. Mohart Multi-Purpose Center, 3200 Wayne Ave., in Kansas City, and is hosted by a Missouri House special committee.

“I feel some sense of obligation to assure that my kids are treated fairly to the extent that’s possible in society,” Lori Ross said. “It’s just ridiculous that the color of their skin causes them to be treated differently.”

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Katie Moore covers crime and justice issues for The Star. She is a University of Kansas graduate and was previously a reporter in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas.