African-Americans, Hispanics disproportionately searched, arrested during traffic stops in Missouri

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Black and Hispanics are more likely to be searched and arrested during a traffic stop than whites yet are less likely to be found with contraband, according to a report of vehicle stops in 2017 in the Show-Me State.  

On Friday, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley released the 2017 Vehicle Stops Report which disseminates data collected from peace officers around the state and breaks down all vehicle stops, searches, and arrests by race. The report also correlates that data to that driving population percent of that ethnicity.  

“The Vehicle Stops Report reiterates Missourians’ commitment to the rule of law,” Hawley said. “The data contained in the Report allows a constructive conversation about the fair and impartial administration of justice. In the coming months, my Office will work with law enforcement and community groups to ensure that the regulations governing this data collection are clear and effective. We look forward to working with stakeholders throughout the state on this worthy endeavor.”

“We have a constitutional and ethical obligation to strive for an equitable society where people are not stopped simply because of their race. We strongly urge the attorney general’s office to prioritize meeting with community activists to talk about this year’s findings,” said Sara Baker, legislative and policy director at ACLU of Missouri, following the release of the 2017 data.

In total law enforcement stopped 1,541,755 drivers, performed 99,441 searches and made 73,193 arrests. In 34.53 percent of searches, contraband was found. The contraband hit rate is calculated based on the number of searches were contraband was found as a percentage of searches conducted.

Population figures are collected from 2010 Census data based on persons 16 and older who designated a single race. Hispanics may be of any race. “Other” includes persons of mixed race or unknown race. Indexes, as related to race, relies on a group’s proportion of Missouri’s driving-age population not the proportion of the actual drivers who are on the roads.

The data shows that whites, which are an estimated 82.8 percent of Missouri’s driving-age population, comprised of 77.1 percent of all stops, 70.3 percent of searches, and 69.9 percent of arrests. 35.47 percent of all searches of whites resulted in contraband being found — more than any other race.

In comparison, blacks make up roughly 10.9 percent of Missouri’s driving-age population yet comprise of 18.7 percent of stops, 25.7 percent of searches, and 25.8 percent of arrests. Of the 25,616 blacks searched, only 32.88 percent resulted in contraband being found.

The report found that “African-American motorists were stopped is 1.85 times that of the rate at which White motorists were stopped” and “1.51 times more likely to be searched than White drivers.”

Hispanic drivers were 1.45 times more likely than white drivers to be searched and 1.62 times more likely to be arrested than white drivers. This is while being .78 times less likely to be found with contraband.

“For the last 18 years, Attorney General after Attorney General has released the Vehicle Stops Report. Year after year, it provides us with evidence that Black and Brown people are at risk when driving in Missouri. This year’s report is no different. Racism and its by-products, including implicit bias, have created a moral crisis. The emotional, psychological and financial impact of the actions of police departments on individuals and families across this state is costly and cannot be measured by a report,” said Reverend Dr. Cassandra Gould, executive director of Missouri Faith Voices.

Redditt Hudson, Vice President of Civil Rights and Advocacy at Urban League-St. Louis, called on Hawley to endorse the 2019 versions of 2018’s HB 2172, sponsored by Rep. Shamed Dogan, and SB 828, sponsored by Jamilah Nasheed, to enact “critical law enforcement police reforms.”

At the same time as blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be searched and arrested, those identify as Asian, Native-American, and other were less likely to be stopped, searched, and/or arrested.

Less than one percent of stops, searches, and arrests were attributed to Asian drivers while they make up roughly 1.71 percent of Missouri’s driving age population.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.