Government & Politics

Report shows black drivers more likely to be pulled over in Missouri

File photo

Another year of records on police traffic stops shows another year of racial disparity in those stops, according to a report released Thursday by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

While officials don’t necessarily expect the disparity rate to improve dramatically next year, they do believe the statistics will be more accurate than they have been in the past.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced new regulations Thursday for collecting data on traffic stops in the state.

The new data collection effort might help prevent skewing of the data in areas where people drive from outside a given police jurisdiction, such as near malls, said Sara Baker, legislative and policy director for the ACLU of Missouri.

Although numbers could change in individual jurisdictions, “it is very unlikely that the new regulations will change the statewide numbers,” said Loree Anne Paradise, deputy chief of staff for the Attorney General’s Office.

The data collected over the course of 2016 and analyzed by a team of criminology professors showed:

▪  Black drivers were more likely to be pulled over and more likely to be searched. But they were less likely to be found with contraband in those searches and more likely to be arrested than white drivers across Missouri.

▪ Hispanic drivers were less likely to be pulled over, but were also more likely to be searched, less likely to be found with contraband and more likely to be arrested than white drivers.

In 2016, black drivers were 75 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers in Missouri. In 2015, black drivers were 69 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers.

Black drivers have been stopped disproportionately in Missouri since the attorney general began releasing data in 2000, according to historical data available from the attorney general’s website.

The new regulations will direct law enforcement agencies to collect and retain information indicating whether drivers reside in a given agency’s jurisdiction. Paradise said the additional data collection could help ensure accuracy of the disparity index, which measures the number of stops compared to the population that lives in a given jurisdiction.

The latest report indicated a need for improvement in Missouri law enforcement data-gathering, training and reform, according to a joint news release issued by Empower Missouri and the ACLU of Missouri.

“We have a constitutional and ethical obligation to strive for an equitable society where people are not stopped simply because of their race,” Baker said. “We are encouraged that the attorney general’s office has been open to meeting with community activists and hope the open door policy will remain to talk about this year’s findings.”

Under the old data collection and analysis system, the number of stops per race were recorded and divided by the number of people of a given race living in a jurisdiction. Those numbers did not reflect whether the stopped drivers lived in that jurisdiction.

Because some drivers may live outside the jurisdiction, the additional data will allow analysts to more specifically compare the races of stopped drivers to the overall driving population.