Missouri: Black drivers 91% more likely to be stopped than whites

Black drivers are 91% more likely than whites to be pulled over by police, a report from the Missouri Attorney General has found.

The disparity is the highest in the 19 years the vehicle stops report has been conducted, Scott Decker, one of the people who prepared the report, told CNN.

African Americans compose 10.9% of Missouri’s driving age population, but 19.2% of all vehicle stops in 2018, according to the report released May 31.

The report examined 1,539,477 vehicle stops from 596 law enforcement agencies in the state.

People of other races — including whites, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans — were stopped at rates “well below” their portion of the driving-age population, the report said.

Data on arrests and searches

The report also looked at data on arrests and searches during vehicle stops. About 6.37% of the stops of blacks and 6.26% of the stops of Hispanics resulted in arrest, compared with about 4.25% of the stops of whites, the report said.

The average search rate for motorists who were stopped last year was 6.6%. But the report found that blacks (8.93%) and Hispanics (8.44%) were searched at rates above the average for all motorists who were stopped.

“Being pulled over is not terribly uncommon. On the other hand, being searched, being pulled out of your car and being arrested are far more intrusive kinds of police actions,” said Decker, an Arizona State University professor of criminology and criminal justice. “The disparities by race for those are where more attention needs to be focused.”

The findings aren’t surprising

“Unfortunately, the numbers have been trending this way consistently year in and year out,” St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt told CNN. “The state is not taking it seriously enough to try to fix this issue.”

The Missouri report’s findings align with national trends. In March, a Stanford University study of 93 million traffic stops from around the country reported that black drivers are 20% more likely to get pulled over than white drivers.

“Using stops as a policing tool for crime prevention needs to cease,” Pruitt said. “The fact that somebody is driving in a particular area, and a police officer feels that that person or individuals are out of place — that, in itself, should not justify them impeding or intruding on their lives by stopping them and searching their vehicle.”

Looking at the residency of drivers pulled over

The Attorney General’s office has compiled the annual report since 2000.

“Aggregating the Vehicle Stops Report is an important duty of my office, and it serves as a tool to law enforcement and agencies alike to identify disparities and improve practices,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement. “It’s my hope that this report will help provide that Missourians are receiving the best possible protection under the law from law enforcement, who work and sacrifice every day to ensure our safety.”

This was the first time the office looked at whether drivers lived in the area where they were stopped.

For years, law enforcement organizations said drivers of color who were pulled over in a predominantly white area could have exaggerated the racial disparities in vehicle stop data. But this report shows the artificial inflation is not as high as thought — black drivers are still being pulled over at disproportionate rates in their own communities.