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Report: Black drivers stopped more often in Missouri

by Jeff Haldiman | May 28, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Missouri's annual vehicle stops report, which was released Friday, shows minority drivers continued to be pulled over at a higher rate in 2021 than white drivers.

Of the more than 1.2 million total stops made by law officers in the state in 2021, more than 940,000 were made on white drivers, more than 220,195 of which were Missouri residents. The total number of Black drivers stopped was more than 226,000, nearly 44,800 of which were state residents. The total number of stops for Hispanic drivers was more than 31,600, more than 5,314 of which were Missouri residents.

In 2000, Missouri legislators passed a statute requiring "all peace officers" to report information for each vehicle stop made in the state. The Attorney General's Office has since released its annual Vehicle Stops Report every year, showing the number of stops, as well as post-stop information, for the state and communities. The premise behind the statute was to address issues of racial profiling in Missouri, according to the Attorney General's Office website.

Changes to questions that officers must answer when making a stop were adopted in 2019 and fully implemented for the 2021 report. This includes questions relating to the officer's assignment, the residential zip code of the driver stopped and the reason for issuing a citation or warning.

The report uses a disparity index that looks at proportion of stops to the proportion of the population.

A value of 1 indicates a group's proportion of vehicle stops equals its population proportion. If the value is above 1, there is over- representation, and if the value is below 1, it's under-representation in traffic stops.

The statewide disparity index for all stops showed the rate for white drivers was 0.95, which would indicate they were stopped at slightly below the rate for their population figures. The disparity index for white Missouri residents was 0.99.

Black drivers had a total disparity index of 1.68, which would indicate they were stopped at a rate greater than expected for their population figures. Black Missouri residents were also stopped at a higher rate than expected, with a disparity index of 1.48.

The disparity index for Hispanic drivers was 0.72 and 0.53 for Hispanic residents.

This year's report uses the state's population figures for 2020. White residents make up the largest racial group in Missouri at 80.6 percent, followed by Black residents at approximately 11 percent and Hispanic residents at 3.6 percent.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said the 2021 report should be viewed in the context of "substantial changes over the past two years due to the COVID-19 environment.

"For example, many individuals still worked from home in 2021 and law enforcement policies may have shifted in a variety of ways to minimize interpersonal contact, keep jail capacity low or adjust to staffing shortages," Schmitt wrote.

Putting context into this year's data compared to 2020's sharp dip in stops overall due to COVID-19, the report states, "... Overall stops in 2021 were up 5 percent from 2020, but still 20 percent lower than overall stops in 2019. Similarly, overall arrests in 2021 were up 9 percent from 2020, but still 34 percent lower than overall arrests in 2019. Meanwhile, searches continued to fall with 2021 searches 12 lower than 2020 and 18 percent lower than 2019."

Print Headline: Report: Black drivers stopped more often in Missouri


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