Mo. minority drivers are stopped, searched at higher rate than whites

Friday, May 30, 2008 | 8:10 p.m. CDT; updated 8:00 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Black drivers are more likely to be stopped in Missouri than white and Hispanic motorists, and minorities are twice as likely to be searched and arrested than whites.

An annual state report released on Friday by the attorney general’s office shows that in 2007, black drivers were 66 percent more likely to be pulled over than white motorists. A Hispanic driver was slightly more likely to be pulled over than a white one.

White drivers accounted for nearly 80 percent of the more than 1.5 million stops in 2007. But based on their share in the state’s driving-age population, white motorists were stopped less frequently and black drivers more often than would have been expected, the report said. Hispanics were pulled over in line with their share of the driving-age population.

For all races, the number of stopped motorists declined slightly from the 1.6 million in 2006. Of those total stops, about 8 percent of the vehicles were searched and 6 percent resulted in an arrest.

The report is based on data from the state’s more than 700 law enforcement agencies. Police report a driver’s race, age and gender; the reason for the stop; and if a ticket was issued. Data were collected from all but 22 police forces. Police departments that do not report their statistics on time can have state funding withheld by the governor’s office.

The first racial-profiling report covered traffic stops in 2000.

The annual reports show that black drivers were pulled over more disproportionately in 2007 than in 2006, but they were less likely to be searched or arrested this past year. Hispanic motorists were more likely to be searched and arrested in 2007, but in 2006 they were pulled over with greater frequency than would be expected based on their share of the population. Data for whites remained largely unchanged between the two years.

Hispanic drivers in 2007 were searched more often than anyone else, nearly 15 percent of the times they were pulled over. That compares with 12 percent of stopped black motorists and 7 percent of white drivers.

Even though searched the least, white drivers were the most likely to be found with contraband in their vehicles — almost one time for every four vehicle searches.

Minority motorists also were far more likely to be arrested. About 11 percent of Hispanic drivers pulled over were arrested — compared with 9 percent for blacks and 5 percent for whites.

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