Highway Patrol data portal includes use of force, pursuits

The Missouri Highway Patrol recently made available more insight into its day-to-day work - including details of the circumstances last year of use of force incidents and vehicle pursuits.

Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Eric T. Olson announced earlier this month the public is invited to visit the agency's Show-Me Integrity portal to get "an unprecedented look inside the patrol."

"We know that accreditation, core values, community policing, service and protection are only words until you see how we apply them every day during every contact," Olson said in a news release. "Our Show-Me Integrity portal provides insight into policies, training and important functions, as well as related statistics."

The data portal is available by going to mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/Root/index.html and clicking on the "Show-Me Integrity" portal image in the middle of the page - featuring the seal of the Highway Patrol - located above the statewide fatality totals for traffic and boat crashes and drownings.

Some of what's displayed there includes statistics and analysis on use of force incidents in 2019, the most recent year available through the portal.

The Highway Patrol reported in its analysis of last year's use of force incidents that its members responded to 422,082 calls for service and conducted 333,575 enforcement contacts. "In these 755,657 total contacts with the public, excluding tire deflation deployments, MSHP members were involved in 251 use of force incidents," according to the patrol.

That means incidents during which Highway Patrol members used batons, firearms, body parts such as their hands and feet, control holds, a vascular neck restraint, stun guns, pepper spray or tear gas, and other methods to apply force to contain suspects represented 0.03 percent of the patrol's interactions with the public in 2019.

Those 251 incidents resulted in 286 reports being filed, which is consistent with the past five years: 289 reports filed in 2015; 285 in 2016; 283 in 2017; and 277 in 2018.

In more than half of incidents last year - 52 percent of the time - officers used their hands and feet.

Control holds were used 19 percent of the time; stun guns, 9 percent; vascular neck restraints, 7 percent; pepper or spray or tear gas, 4 percent; and firearms, 3 percent of the time.

Three suspects were killed in Highway Patrol use of force incidents in 2019, but no patrol officer died as a result of force by an assailant.

More than 30 percent of suspects were injured in last year's incidents, as were 13.6 percent of officers involved.

That compares to five-year injury averages during Highway Patrol use of force incidents for suspects of 34.5 percent and 13.3 percent for officers.

Use of force incidents were most likely to happen in 2019 between 9 p.m.-midnight and on Saturdays.

Troop F - the patrol troop that serves Mid-Missouri, including Cole, Boone, Callaway, Camden, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan and Osage counties - reported 14 percent of the incidents last year in which officers applied force.

There are nine Highway Patrol troops, A-I, and Troop F ranked fourth for its share of use of force incidents last year.

Troop A had the most use of force incidents - 16.4 percent of those reported last year. Troop A serves the Kansas City area.

Troop B, which serves northern Missouri counties such as Monroe, Macon, Randolph and Adair - had the smallest share of use of force incidents at 3.5 percent.

Suspects who had force applied to them by the patrol last year were white 73.3 percent of the time, while people who are white represented 83 percent of the state's population in the 2010 Census.

Black suspects represented 15.7 percent of suspects who had force applied to them, compared to people who are Black representing 11.8 percent of the state's population.

Suspects were most often unarmed, 81.5 percent of the time. When suspects used force against officers, it was usually through their hands and feet or knees, elbows and other body parts.

Ten of the 36 suspects last year "who possessed edged weapons or firearms used them as a weapon" against officers.

Use of force incidents were most likely to follow vehicle pursuits - with pursuits being the reason for initial contact 29.7 percent of the time when patrol officers used force. Vehicle or watercraft stops were the initial contact 20.6 percent of the time.

As for vehicle pursuits by the patrol - when a driver knows an officer is trying to apprehend an occupant of their vehicle but does not stop or tries to evade the officer - there were 561 last year.

Almost three-quarters of the time, pursuits started after an officer noticed a traffic violation, and drivers were most likely to be trying to avoid a traffic summons. The next most common reason for fleeing was trying to avoid an arrest.

Like use of force incidents, pursuits were also most likely to happen between 9 p.m. and midnight, and on Saturdays.

Pursued drivers were involved in 33 traffic crashes last year, representing 5.9 percent of all pursuits in 2019. Three fleeing drivers died last year, five suffered disabling injuries and 22 sustained "evident or probable injuries."

No passengers or officers died. Sixteen passengers were injured, and no officers suffered disabling injuries. One citizen was killed and eight were injured by pursuits.

There was no demographic analysis of fleeing drivers included, but their average age remained around 32, and 11.6 percent of drivers who fled were intoxicated.

At least one other law enforcement agency was involved in 28.3 percent of Highway Patrol pursuits last year.

Troop F had 11.8 percent of the patrol's pursuits last year. Troop C had the most, 27.8 percent. Troop B had the least, 3.2 percent.

Troop C serves the St. Louis area.

Troop F ranked third out of the nine troops for its share of pursuits last year.

Officers or their supervisors voluntarily opted to end pursuits 40.6 percent of the time last year - 22.8 percent of the time by officers, and the rest by supervisors.

"I hope the Show-Me Integrity portal conveys to you the high standards our employees meet as they perform their duties," Olson said.