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Each year, the state's annual motor vehicle stops report is released. And each year, we dutifully report the results.

The reports, and the subsequent news stories, are reminiscent of the movie "Groundhog Day."

Each year, the results show minority drivers were pulled over at a higher rate than white drivers. The annual news story typically quotes the NAACP citing concerns over the data and quotes from law enforcement defending their practices.

This year's report shows there were more than 897,600 white drivers stopped, far more than the 209,200 Black drivers or 29,700 Hispanic drivers who were stopped.

However, 81.2 percent of the population is white, with just more than 11 percent Black and 3.5 percent Hispanic. So, proportionately, more Black drivers and fewer Hispanic drivers were pulled over compared to white drivers.

So, after two decades of the state-mandated reports, what are we to believe? Does this prove racial profiling on the part of law enforcement? No, it doesn't. Does it prove Blacks violate traffic laws more than whites and Hispanics? No, it doesn't necessarily prove that either.

Statisticians likely would tell us you can't come to conclusions based on such limited data. Fortunately, the state is starting to collect more data.

In 2019, the Attorney General's office required officers to report more information about stops, such as the officer's assignment at the time, the residential ZIP code of the driver stopped and the reason for issuing a citation or warning.

The data will be fully available in the 2021 report.

In the meantime, we continue to believe there are some bad cops out there who would judge people solely on the color of their skin. We also believe those cops are few and far in between.

Like we've said before, the law enforcement we see on the job every day here in Jefferson City and Mid- Missouri have proved themselves to be professional, fair, even compassionate.

News Tribune

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