Archived: Blacks Pulled Over Almost Twice as Much, But Who’s More Likely to Have Contraband

By Sheryl Estrada


Photo by Shutterstock

In 2014 Missouri police officers stopped Black drivers 75 percent more than white drivers, according to a vehicle stops report released June 1 by Attorney General Chris Koster.

Fifteen years ago, the state began compiling data on racial disparity in vehicle stops by police, which is required by law. The 2014 disparity rate of 1.66 is the highest since the data collection began. Blacks were 31 percent more likely than whites to be stopped in 2000, a disparity rate of 1.27.

The report is a summary of 622 law enforcement agencies conducting vehicle stops in Missouri; an additional 61 agencies indicated they made no traffic stops during the year. The analysis is representative of 97.7 percent of the 699 law enforcement agencies in the state.

Koster offered there is no single explanation for why these disparities exist, saying in a statement, “statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver.”

However, the report did note, “the pattern is striking” as not just a few stops by law enforcement were analyzed, but rather 1,681,382 million stops.

He added that “this compilation and analysis of data provides law enforcement, legislators, and the public a starting point as they consider improvements to process and changes to policy to address these issues.”

It’s also important to note that Koster’s report includes the”contraband hit rate,” which reflects the percentage of searches in which contraband is found. Blacks in Missouri who were pulled over had lower contraband hit rates than whites.

The contraband hit rate for whites was 26.9 percent, compared with 21.4 percent for African-Americans and 19.5 percent for Hispanics. This means that, on average, searches of African-Americans and Hispanics are less likely than searches of whites to result in the discovery of contraband. This difference may result in part from the higher arrest rates for African-Americans and Hispanics—if there is an arrest, there will be a search whether or not the arresting officer suspects the subject has contraband.

Less than five percent of stops resulted in arrest. Though, approximately eight percent of stops of Blacks and eight percent of Latinos resulted in arrests. The percentage of stops that resulted in arrest for whites was about four percent.

The findings on vehicle stops in Ferguson, Mo. is particularly of interest due to the shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in August, and the protests that followed.

In the city, Black drivers were four times as likely to be stopped by police than white drivers.

The Ferguson police chief in 2014 was Thomas Jackson. His resignation from the department was effective March 19, following an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

The report, “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department,” published March 4, details Jackson’s lack of promoting institutional safeguards and fixes. It concluded revenue was created by policing mostly Blacks who live in Ferguson, which contributed to years of racial profiling. Judge Ronald Brockmeyer and City Manager John Shaw also resigned following the report.

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