Police search African American and Hispanic Missouri drivers at a notably higher rate than white drivers -- despite the fact that these minority groups are actually less likely to have contraband on them.
These are the findings of an annual vehicle-stops report that Attorney General Chris Koster released on Friday. The report -- which analyzes more than 1.6 million stops with data from more than 600 law enforcement agencies -- says that black motorists are more likely to be pulled over and searched and are more likely to be arrested during traffic stops than white drivers. This has been the trend since 2000.
These racial disparities are decreasing, notes Koster, who says that the data is "not conclusive evidence of racial profiling."
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Regardless, the statistics do show that both black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to be subject to searches, even if police are less frequently finding contraband on them compared to white drivers.
Here's an excerpt from Koster's press release that explains this portion of the report's findings:
Search rates (the rates at which drivers of a given race are searched subsequent to a traffic stop) for both Hispanic and African-American drivers continue to be higher than for white drivers. Hispanic drivers were 1.92 times more likely than white drivers to be searched. African-American drivers were 1.83 times more likely to be searched when stopped than white drivers.
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 25.5, the rate of Hispanics searched and found to have contraband was 16.9. The "contraband hit rate" for African-American drivers was 18.8.
Interestingly, Hispanic drivers are stopped at a low rate, but they're searched at a very high rate.
Black drivers, however, are both stopped and searched at disproportionately high rates. The report's executive summary, on view below, says that "African-Americans represent 10.9 percent of the population 16 and older but 17.06 percent of all vehicle stops.... African-Americans were stopped at a rate 57 percent greater than expected based solely on their proportion of the population 16 and older."
This number is actually a decline from last year's rate for black drivers and marks the third time the disparity has gone down over the last thirteen years.
One important caveat is that the data does include out-of-state drivers who are stopped, even though these drivers may not reflect the ethnic composition of Missouri. Additionally, the report does not consider what percentage of each race are motorists.
The annual report is required by law after the state legislature enacted a policy in 2000 in response to concerns of racial profiling. The law mandates all officers in the state report specific information, including a driver's race, for each vehicle stop, and agencies must submit their data to the attorney general's office, which completes the report.
Continue for more details on the report and a copy of Koster's summary of the findings.
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