In March, the U.S. Justice Department’s scathing report on racially disparate policing in Ferguson, Missouri, found that “Ferguson uses its police department in large part as a collection agency for its municipal court,” often via traffic citations and arrests. Now, a report from the Missouri Attorney General has found that black drivers state-wide are more likely to be stopped, searched and arrested than white drivers – a trend that has continued since the agency began collecting such data in 2000.
The report, which summarizes data from about 98 percent of law enforcement agencies in Missouri, compared the racial make-up of the state’s driving-age residents to that of those indicated in traffic stops, searches and arrests. The results showed that African Americans were over-represented in all three areas.
“African-Americans were 75 percent more likely than whites to be stopped based on their respective proportions of the Missouri driving-age population in 2014,” the report says.
In Missouri, blacks make up about 11 percent of the population but 18 percent of stops, 23 percent of searches and 29 percent of arrests. They were stopped at a rate 66 percent greater than expected, while all other races were stopped at a rate below their proportion of the driving-age population. African Americans were 75 percent more likely than whites to be stopped in 2014.
“These findings continue a disturbing trend for African-American drivers in Missouri,” the report concludes. “The disparity index for African-American drivers has increased steadily over the last fifteen years,” with only a few, slight drops since 2000.
The disparity continues among traffic searches, even though searches of white motorists were more likely to yield contraband. According to the report, African-Americans were 73 percent more likely than whites to be searched, and Hispanics 90 percent more likely.
The contraband “hit rate,” however, is higher for whites, at nearly 30 percent, compared to about 21 percent for African-Americans and 20 percent for Hispanics.
The report notes that the disparity in searches may stem from the disparity in arrests, which trigger a search warrant: Less than 5 percent of all stops resulted in an arrest, but about 8 percent of stops of African Americans and 8 percent of Hispanics resulted in arrest. For whites, the percentage of stops that resulted in arrest was about 4 percent.
“The pattern is striking: the data tell us that in 2014, Missouri’s African-American drivers were 75 percent…more likely than white drivers to be stopped on Missouri’s roads,” the report notes. “Just 14 years earlier, in 2000, the difference was only 31 percent .”