Missouri Sees Racial|Divide in Police Stops

     JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – Black drivers were 75 percent more likely to be stopped by Missouri police than white drivers in 2014, the Attorney General’s Office said Monday.
     Attorney General Chris Koster’s 2014 Annual Report of Missouri Traffic Stops analyzed the demographics of traffic stops by the state’s 622 law enforcement agencies.
     The report found that black and Hispanic drivers were nearly twice more likely to be searched than whites, though searches of white people were more likely to turn up contraband.
     The report includes a racial breakdown of traffic stops, searches and arrests overall, and by individual law agency.
     A “disparity index” measures the number of times members of a racial group are stopped against that group’s share of the driving-age population. A disparity index of 1 indicates that drivers are being pulled over in perfect proportion to their race. More than 1 indicated that the group is over-represented in traffic stops.
     Overall, blacks had a 1.66 disparity index, which is the highest in the 15 years such data has been collected.
     The 1.66 rate has increased from a 1.22 rate 15 years ago, when blacks were only 31 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers.
     All other races had a disparity index of less than 1, including whites, at .95.
     The report showed Hispanics and blacks were more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than whites, though whites were more likely to be found with contraband during searches.
     Hispanics had a 9.91 search rate (searches divided by stops, multiplied by 100) and blacks had 9.00 search rate, compared to just 5.21 for whites.
     But whites had a 26.87 contraband hit rate (searches with contraband found divided by total searches, multiplied by 100) compared to 21.39 for blacks and 19.48 for Hispanics.
     In Koster’s analysis at the end of the report, the attorney general said there is no single explanation for the disparities.
     “While statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver, this compilation and analysis of data provides law enforcement, legislators and the public a starting point as they consider improvements to process and changes to policy to address these issues,” Koster said in a statement.
     The Washington Post reported last weekend that nationwide, police are fatally shooting people at twice the rate reported by the FBI.
     In March, the Department of Justice released a scathing report on the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department, claiming that years of systematic racism fueled the often violent protests that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown last August.
     Yet in the attorney general’s report, Ferguson’s disparity rate for blacks was 1.30, below the state average of 1.66. But the report showed that blacks were searched at a higher rate in Ferguson (10.09) than the state average (9.00).
     Neither Ferguson nor the St. Louis County Police Department responded to requests for comment on the attorney general’s report.

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