COLUMBIA — Missouri's black drivers are being stopped by police at disproportionate rates compared with white and Hispanic drivers, according to a report released by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster on Tuesday.
Analysis of the 2009 Vehicle Stops Report indicates "a disturbing trend for African-American drivers in Missouri," Koster said in a statement. In 2000, black drivers in Missouri were 30 percent more likely than white drivers to be stopped; by 2009, that number had risen to 70 percent. Black drivers were also twice as likely as Hispanic drivers to be stopped.
The report compiles data from more than 700 law enforcement agencies statewide, including the Boone County Sheriff's Department and the Columbia Police Department. More than 1.7 million vehicle stops, searches and arrests were made statewide in 2009. The report further breaks down the information into categories of race, age and gender.
In Columbia, there were 22,648 stops in 2009; black drivers were more than twice as likely as white drivers to be stopped. Both African-American and Hispanic drivers were also more likely to be searched than white drivers, but the contraband hit rate for white drivers was much higher.
Although unable to offer a clear explanation for these disparities, Koster said the report would be used as a starting point for improved dialogue between law enforcement and communities. Koster was to meet Wednesday with Mary Ratliff, president of Missouri's NAACP conference.
These disparities don't prove police make traffic stops based on "the perceived race or ethnicity of a driver," Koster said in the statement. But Ratliff said she plans to continue the discussion about racial profiling, according to the Missourian's previous article.
The state has defined racial profiling as "the inappropriate use of race by law enforcement when making a decision to stop, search or arrest a motorist."
Do these findings indicate racial profiling?