Attorney General Chris Koster recently released the 14th Annual report on traffic stop statistics across Missouri. The study shows a slight upward trend in the disparity index towards more stops of Hispanic and African-American drivers than that of Caucasians.

Koster says there is a “disturbing trend” in the findings however. He points to African-American drivers being nearly seven times more likely to be pulled over than whites in 2013, versus just 30% more likely in the inaugural year of 2000.

Hispanics and Blacks were also searched more often than whites. However narcotics were found on whites over 26 percent of the time. That’s compared to just 18% for Hispanics and 18.9% for Blacks.

Koster said these disparities needs to be addressed in the communities where these numbers were reported. The Attorney General also said he hopes local governments will work to identify the causes and work finding solutions.

Press Release from the Office of Mo. Attorney General Chris Koster

Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today released the 14th Annual Report on Vehicle Stops.  The 2013 report contains data and analysis regarding more than 1.6 million stops by 613 law enforcement agencies, including racial and ethnic information about drivers who were stopped. 

Koster said Missourians can visit his website at http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/ to compare the 2013 data to vehicle-stop data going back to 2000, when data collection was first required by Missouri law.

“One of the best uses of these reports is as a springboard for dialogue and communication between law enforcement agencies and the Missourians they serve,” Koster said.  “It is vital that Missouri law enforcement agencies review the rates of stops and searches and continue their community-outreach efforts.”

The Attorney General reiterated that the disparity index for any community is not conclusive evidence of racial profiling.

The “disparity indexes” compare the proportion of stops for drivers of a particular race or ethnicity to the proportion of state or local population of that racial or ethnic group. A value of “1” represents no disparity; values over “1” indicate over-representation, meaning members of the group are stopped in greater numbers than the group’s proportion of the driving-age population, while values under “1” indicate under-representation.

Koster said in 2013 the statewide African-American disparity index was 1.59, a slight increase from the 2012 rate of 1.57.   This represents the 11th time in 14 years that the disparity index for African-American drivers has increased.  The disparity index for African-American drivers was 1.27 in 2000.

“African-American drivers in Missouri were 66 percent more likely than white drivers to be stopped in 2013 versus 30 percent more likely in 2000,” Koster said.  “This suggests a disturbing trend, and I hope communities with similar findings will make a serious effort to identify the causes.”

The report shows the rate (disparity index) at which Hispanics were stopped slightly increased in 2013 to .61, compared to .60 in 2012, a rate lower than that of white drivers.  However, search rates (the rates at which drivers of a given race are searched subsequent to a traffic stop) for both African-American and Hispanic drivers continue to be higher than for white drivers. African-American drivers were 1.89 times more likely to be searched when stopped than white drivers; Hispanic drivers were 1.87 times more likely than white drivers to be searched.  

Despite the elevated search rates, Hispanics were less likely than white drivers to be found with contraband subsequent to being searched.  While the “contraband hit rate” for white drivers was 26.3, the rate of Hispanics searched and found to have contraband was 18.   The “contraband hit rate” for African-American drivers was 18.8.

Koster thanked and commended law enforcement agencies for their willingness to compile information for the report.  He noted that 96 percent of agencies submitted information.  Twenty-six agencies did not respond in 2013, an increase from the 23 departments that failed to report in 2011.  The Attorney General’s office has submitted the names of those agencies that did not respond to the Governor, as required by law.

Koster noted that the report contains information on vehicle stops from individual law enforcement agencies, so each community can examine its own data and situation.  For example, it is helpful to compare departments of a similar size or from similar geographic areas.  Additionally, factors such as crime patterns or the existence of an interstate highway in a given region may affect data samples.  Koster noted that general statewide trends do not necessarily reflect trends for individual departments, which should be considered on an individual basis.

The full report plus data for individual law enforcement agencies can be found online at http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/.