JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A report from Missouri’s attorney general shows that black drivers across the state are 91% more likely than white motorists to be pulled over by police and newly collected data shows that African-Americans are even more likely to be stopped in many communities where they live.
The Attorney General’s Office for the first time last year collected data on whether people pulled over by police lived in the area or not. That’s significant because law enforcement organizations for years have said that if drivers of color from out of town are pulled over as they commute through a city with a large white population that could skew a local police agency’s data to make the disparity rate artificially high.
While that appears to be the case in some jurisdictions, the numbers show the disparity is sometimes actually higher when comparing arrests of only resident white and black drivers.
In Kentucky, an analysis of traffic stop data by The Courier Journal found African Americans in Louisville are disproportionately stopped and are three times more likely to be searched than white drivers.
The paper analyzed 130,999 stops between 2016 and 2018, and found that African Americans accounted for 33% of the stops although they make up only about 20% of city’s driving-age population.
Of 8,942 searches, 57% involved African Americans. That’s despite a much higher incidence of contraband found with white drivers. According to the analysis, police found contraband in 72% of the searches of whites versus only 41% for African Americans.
Speaking before the Metro Council Public Safety Committee last week, Police Chief Steve Conrad said traffic stops weree only one tactic for violence reduction but noted, “In terms of them being effective for reducing violent crime, I would agree that statistically they are not.”
He said it was one of the reasons for a new approach he announced last month in which stops would no longer be “a matter of routine.”
Under new rules, which go into effect Aug. 1, officers must be able to justify why they remove drivers from vehicles, frisk or handcuff them, or make them sit on the ground. — (AP)
In Missouri, the state’s NAACP chapter in 2017 issued a travel advisory warning people to be careful while in Missouri because of a danger that civil rights won’t be respected, citing in part the attorney general’s annual report on disparities in police stops.
For example, St. Louis County police were 80% more likely to stop Black drivers compared to white drivers, when analyzing the total number of police stops. But when only comparing St. Louis County drivers, data show Black drivers were more than twice as likely to be pulled over.
The 2018 report comes nearly five years after protesters in Ferguson drew national attention to longstanding concerns about police treatment of black communities following the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old who lived in the St. Louis suburb.
Data released by Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt show that since then, reports of Black drivers being pulled over at a disproportionately high rate compared to their white counterparts have only increased. Last year’s statewide disparity rate between white and Black drivers is the highest recorded in the almost two decades since the state first began compiling data.
“For the eighteenth year in a row, the Missouri Attorney General’s office has released a report that shows Black communities, and people of color are disproportionately stopped and searched by law enforcement,” ACLU legislative and policy Director Sara Baker said in a statement. “A report is not enough. Actions must be taken.”
In 2015, data show Black drivers were roughly 70% more likely to be stopped by police compared to white motorists statewide. That disparity climbed to 75% in 2016 and up to 85% in 2017 .
Missouri law allows the governor to strip state funding from police agencies that don’t comply with the state’s racial profiling law. State Budget Director Dan Haug said at least as far back as 2015, that has not occurred.
“If you don’t have any teeth in that law that bans racial profiling, then you won’t get compliance,” said state Rep. Shamed Dogan, a Republican from Ballwin. “We need to get Republicans on board to recognize that it’s a crisis. We have data to prove this has been going on for two decades.”
Missouri Sheriff s’ Association Executive Director Kevin Merritt in a Monday statement said “law enforcement has no tolerance for racial bias in policing and in general is not opposed to data collection.” But he raised issues with drawing conclusions from police stops and said law enforcement officials have pushed to collect additional data on whether officers knew the race of the driver before pulling them over.
“There is much more to this issue than raw data of stops,” Merritt said. “Those who support our law enforcement officers should not blindly conclude bias exists without being part of the solution.” — (AP)