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Disparity between black, white drivers pulled over at highest level yet: Missouri AG report


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The disparity between white and black drivers who are pulled over in Missouri has increased to the highest level yet, according to an annual report released by the state’s attorney general Friday.

The statewide statistics in the 2018 Vehicle Stops Report showed black motorists were stopped at a rate 76 percent greater than expected based upon the portion of the population at least 16 years and older. And when compared to white motorists, black individuals were 91 percent more likely to be stopped.

That disparity has increased since 2017 when black people were 85 percent more likely — then, the highest level recorded — than white individuals to be pulled over by law enforcement. The least difference recorded was in 2000, when black individuals were 31 percent more likely to be pulled over.

Additionally, the 2018 report found the statewide search rate for black and Hispanic drivers were greater than white individuals (black: 8.93; Hispanic: 8.44; white: 6.04) in 2018, but the contraband hit rate was higher among white drivers (black: 33.82; Hispanic: 29.15; white: 35.68). Arrest rates were also higher for black and Hispanic people (black: 6.37; Hispanic: 6.26; white: 4.25).

“Aggregating the Vehicle Stops Report is an important duty of my office, and it serves as a tool to law enforcement and agencies alike to identify disparities and improve practices,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement. “It’s my hope that this report will help provide that Missourians are receiving the best possible protection under the law from law enforcement, who work and sacrifice every day to ensure our safety.”

Breaking it down by city, the disparity between black and white drivers varied. In St. Louis City, black drivers were about 20 percent more likely to be pulled over than white motorists. In Kansas City, black drivers were 40 percent more likely to be pulled over.

And in Missouri’s capital city, black drivers were 92 percent more likely to be pulled over, according to the report.

For the first time, the report also included a breakdown of drivers who lived in the jurisdiction where he or she was pulled over versus those who did not. Data suggested most drivers stopped do not live in that jurisdiction, according to Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, a professor with the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Rosenfeld, who’s worked on the report for more than a decade, told The Missouri Times the data lines up with what local departments have said for years.

In St. Charles, for example, less than 27 percent of drivers pulled over in 2018 lived in that jurisdiction.

But in Jefferson City, the trend reversed; nearly 69 percent of drivers pulled over were residents of the jurisdiction.

Nearly five dozen agencies did not stop any of their own residents in 2018, according to a review of the report by The Missouri Times. And two agencies — the Ellington and Smithton police departments — did not pull over any non-residents.

“The Attorney General’s report again shows that People of Color are being disproportionately and negatively impacted by vehicle stops in Missouri,” Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of Empower Missouri, said in a statement to The Missouri Times.  “It also clearly shows that actions taken by police officers during stops correlate to race in a way that is truly alarming.”

“Our law enforcement agencies need to be able to explain why People of Color, despite being less likely statistically to have contraband on them, are more likely to be searched during a vehicle stop,” she said.

The Attorney General’s Office first began to compile the annual report as a result of a new law in 2000. Schmitt has also planned to add more changes to the report for “clarification and context in certain questions and modernizing the data collection infrastructure for more accurate and insightful data,” according to a news release. 

Seventeen agencies did not submit reports as required by law by March 1: Bland Police Department, Breckenridge Police Department, Camden Point Police Department, Cardwell Police Department, Cooter Police Department, Deepwater Police Department, Garden City Police Department, Greenville Police Department, King City Police Department, Leadington Police Department, Merriam Woods Police Department, New Bloomfield Police Department, Northwoods Police Department, Parma Police Department, Polo Police Department, Vanduser Police Department, and Wood Heights Police Department.

The full report can be found here.