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AG Chris Koster | FAQs
Missouri Attorney General

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ON 2001 MISSOURI VEHICLE STOPS

I. BACKGROUND

Concerns by the citizens of Missouri and the Missouri legislature regarding allegations of racial profiling by law enforcement prompted the passage of state law Section 590.650, RSMo (2000), which was enacted Aug. 28, 2000. Racial profiling has been defined as the inappropriate use of race by law enforcement when making a decision to stop, search or arrest a motorist.

Missouri's state law requires that all peace officers in the state report specific information including a driver's race for each traffic stop made in the state. Law enforcement agencies are required to turn in the data to the Attorney General, and the Attorney General is required to compile the data and report to the Governor no later than June 1 of each year. The law allows the Governor to withhold state funds for any agency which does not comply with the law. State law requires that all information be reported to the Attorney General's Office by March 1.

The summary of statewide racial profiling data has been provided by Scott H. Decker, curator's professor of criminology and criminal justice; Richard Rosenfeld, professor of criminology and criminal justice; and Jeffrey Rojek, doctoral candidate in criminology and criminal justice; all at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Table 1. 2001 statewide summary of results
Key Indicators Total White Black Hispanic Asian Am. Indian Other
Population 4,331,937 3,692,696 444,024 80,094 50,593 17,951 46,579
Stops 1,389,947 1,155,266 189,097 24,634 11,184 1,518 8,248
Searches 99,860 74,250 21,698 3,089 325 109 389
Arrests 76,567 55,984 17,788 2,206 216 98 275
Statewide population % 100% 85.24% 10.25% 1.85% 1.17% .41% 1.08%
Disparity index - - - .98 1.33 .96 .68 .27 .56
Search rate 7.18% 6.43% 11.47% 12.54% 2.91% 7.18% 4.71%
Contraband hit rate 20.04% 21.86% 15.34% 10.65% 12.00% 29.36% 14.65%
Arrest rate 5.51% 4.85% 9.41% 8.96% 1.93% 6.46% 3.33%

Notes: Population figures are from the 2000 census for persons 16 and older who designated a single race. Hispanics may be of any race. Other includes persons of mixed race and unknown race.

Disparity index = (proportion of stops / proportion of population). A value of 1 represents no disparity; values greater than 1 indicate over-representation, values less than 1 indicate under-representation.

Search rate = (searches / stops) X 100.

Contraband hit rate = (searches with contraband found / total searches) X 100.

Arrest rate = (arrests / stops) X 10.

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II. STATEWIDE FINDINGS

This report summarizes the data from 609 law enforcement agencies in Missouri for calendar year 2001. This represents more than 91 percent of the 668 law enforcement agencies in the state. The agencies filing reports recorded a total of 1,389,947 traffic stops, resulting in 99,860 searches and 76,567 arrests. Table 1 breaks out the stops, searches and arrests by race and ethnic group.1

Four summary indicators are included in Table 1 that may be useful in initiating further assessments of racial profiling in traffic stops. The first, termed the "disparity index," relates each group's proportion of total traffic stops to its proportion of the population age 16 and older.

A value of 1 on this index indicates that a group's proportion of traffic stops equals its population proportion: it is neither "under-represented" nor "over-represented" in traffic stops. Values above 1 indicate overrepresentation, and those below 1 indicate under-representation.

For example, the 1,155,266 whites who were stopped accounted for 83 percent of all traffic stops in 2001. According to the 2000 Census, whites comprise 85 percent of Missouri's driving age population. The value for whites on the disparity index is, therefore, .83/.85 or .98. Whites were stopped, in other words, at just slightly below the rate we would expect based on their fraction of the population.

The same is not the case for several of the other groups. African Americans represent 10.3 percent of the population 16 years and older but 13.6 percent of all traffic stops, for a value on the disparity index of 1.33. African Americans were stopped at a rate 33 percent higher than expected based solely on their proportion of the population 16 and older.

Hispanics were stopped at a rate nearly equal to their population proportion, and Asians, American Indians, and persons of mixed or unknown race were stopped at a rate below their proportion of the population.

The values on the disparity index for the different groups can be compared directly to one another. For example, the likelihood that a black motorist was stopped is 1.35 times that of a white motorist (1.33/.98). In other words, Blacks were 35 percent more likely than whites to be stopped in 2001.

The disparity index is a gauge of the likelihood drivers of a given race or ethnic group are stopped based on their proportion of the residential population age 16 and older, and not of the population of motorists on the state's streets, roads, and highways. A group's share of the residential population age 16 and older may or may not equal its proportion of drivers. Although in most instances the two proportions should be close, that may not always be the case.

The extremely low index values for American Indians, for example, could indicate that they are underrepresented among the state's motorists. In addition, motorists from other states are stopped on Missouri's roadways. To the extent that out-of-state drivers do not reflect the race and ethnic composition of Missouri's population, the disparity index will not accurately portray the probability that Missouri residents are stopped.

The second indicator that can be used to begin assessing racial profiling is the "search rate," or the number of searches divided by the number of stops (x 100). The search rate for all motorists who were stopped is 7.18 percent. Whites and American Indians were searched at rates close to the statewide average. (Searches include searches of drivers or property in the vehicle.) Asians were searched at a rate well below the statewide average, and Blacks and Hispanics were searched at rates above the average for all motorists who were stopped.

The search rate for the different groups also can be compared directly with one another. Blacks were 1.78 times more likely to be searched than whites (11.47/6.43). Hispanics were nearly twice as likely as whites to be searched (12.54/6.43).

Conclusions about search rates are difficult to ascertain because there are various reasons for searches and a number of situations that require a search. For example, searches are almost always performed when there is an outstanding warrant or if there is an arrest.

Some searches are conducted with the consent of the driver, or because the officer observed suspected contraband in plain view, had reasonable suspicion that an individual may possess a weapon (Terry search), or other reasons. These searches may or may not result in an arrest.

The third summary indicator, the "contraband hit rate," was added to the 2001 report and did not appear in the 2000 report. The contraband hit rate reflects the percentage of searches in which contraband is found. Contraband is found in 20 percent of all searches that were conducted. However, there is considerable variation in the contraband hit rate across race and ethnic groups.

The contraband hit rate for whites was 22 percent, compared with 15 percent for Blacks and 11 percent for Hispanics. This means that, on average, searches of Blacks and Hispanics produce less contraband than do those of whites. This difference is most likely attributable to the higher arrest rates for Blacks and Hispanics, circumstances that compel a search.

The "arrest rate" is the fourth summary indicator included in Table 1 that may be useful for assessing racial profiling. Just over 5 percent of all traffic stops resulted in an arrest (76,567/1,389,947). The probability of arrest varies across the race and ethnic groups.

Approximately 9 percent of the stops of African Americans and Hispanics resulted in arrest, compared with about 5 percent of the stops of whites. African Americans and Hispanics are stopped and searched more often than whites, but they are arrested more often as well.

A final addition to this year's report is a comparison of the 2000 disparity index to the disparity index for 2001. These comparisons are presented in Appendix B (PDF file. You need Acrobat Reader to view it. 1,251K).2 For each agency, the disparity index for each race-ethnic group is presented for the year 2000 and 2001. These comparisons will allow an assessment of the changes from one year to the next.

However, caution should be used in making such comparisons, especially for smaller agencies, because the 2000 figures are based on only four months of traffic data, while those for 2001 are based on the full calendar year.

A reasoned determination of the existence of racial profiling in a community requires a comprehensive evaluation of the full range of information compiled in the agency reports. This brief summary of selected indicators for the state as a whole is intended to stimulate those local evaluations and dialogue.

Table 2. Agencies that did not submit reports as required by state law
*Denotes agencies that submitted reports, but after the deadline (Section 590.650, RSMo)
Altenburg Police Department *Augusta Police Department Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department
Bland Police Department *Bloomfield Police Department Braymer Police Department
Breckenridge Police Department Bull Creek Police Department Bunceton Police Department
Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Canalou Police Department Chamois Police Department
Clarksburg Police Department Conway Police Department *Edgerton Police Department
Elsberry Police Department Fairview Police Department *Galena Police Department
Glen Echo Park Police Department Grant City Police Department Green City Police Department
Greenville Police Department Hardin Police Department Henrietta Police Department
Howardville Police Department Kinloch Police Department Lake Waukomis Police Department
*Latour Police Department Mayview Police Department McDonald County Sheriff's Department
Memphis Police Department Neelyville Police Department New London Police Department
*Newburg Police Department Novinger Police Department Orrick Police Department
Otterville Police Department Prairie Home Police Department Reynolds County Sheriff's Department
Rush Hill Police Department Southwest City Police Department Steele Police Department
Tallapoosa Police Department Taos Police Department Tarkio Police Department
Twin Bridges Police Department *Vinita Terrace Police Department Wardell Police Department
Table 3. Agencies that did not comply with state law
Arbyrd Police Department Bell City Police Department Deepwater Police Department
Ferrelview Police Department Holland Police Department Iron Mountain Lake Police Department
Lake Ozark Police Department New Bloomfield Police Department Parma Police Department
Silex Police Department
Table 4. Agencies that reported no stops (many contract out traffic stops to other agencies)
Crystal Lakes Police Department Ellsinore Police Department Forest City Police Department
Gravois Mills Police Department Greenfield Police Department Homestead Village Police Department
King City Police Department Maysville Police Department Morley Police Department
Shelbyville Police Department Winchester Police Department

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III. ANALYSIS BY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAY NIXON

The response to the 2001 traffic data report provides the first opportunity for a full-year analysis of traffic stops in Missouri. Missouri law (Section 590.650, RSMo (2000)) was not enacted until Aug. 28, 2000; thus, the first annual report released June 1, 2001, covers only four months of traffic data.

As noted in Section II: Statewide Findings, the data collected for 2001 clearly shows a disproportionate number of stops of African Americans as well as a disproportionate number of searches of African Americans and Hispanics. The level of disproportion remains significant and it is of concern to me.

Disproportion in and of itself is not necessarily reflective of racial profiling. However, I remain concerned that the inappropriate use of race contributes to this level of disproportion between the stops of African Americans as compared to whites and to the disproportion of the searches of African Americans and Hispanics as compared to whites. The anecdotal information provided by many Missourians of color who perceive a racial profiling problem reinforces my concern.

My office continues to work with statisticians and with law enforcement to collect data that will provide the most accurate analysis possible. Even so, it is appropriate to note that the further away we move from the 2000 census year, the more difficult it will be to accurately analyze our data as populations shift. Breakdowns by race will become less accurate with each passing year.

The analysis I provide is based solely on the statewide statistical breakdown and is not a reflection on any particular jurisdiction. I fully recognize the variety of considerations that will affect local data including the appropriate increased patrol of high crime areas and the presence of interstate highways, large shopping centers or major employers in an area. These factors affect the demographics of the driving population, as opposed to the residential population.

Missouri's data collection and review of traffic stops does provide an opportunity to open dialog between local law enforcement and the communities they serve. Last year, some Missouri communities used the announcement of these statistics as an opportunity to meet with local minority communities and review the data collected as well as local community policing efforts. In addition, law enforcement has an opportunity to use this data internally to review the departmental performance and to aid in evaluation efforts.

Last year, the Missouri legislature added a new component to the state's laws against racial profiling, requiring additional training of law enforcement concerning the prohibition against racial profiling and promoting the use of effective, non-combative methods for carrying out law enforcement duties in a racially and culturally diverse environment. This is a move in the right direction. In addition, the law already requires every department to have a written policy against racial profiling.

I encourage all Missourians to respect the work of our law enforcement officials. In 2001, the Sept. 11 tragedies demonstrated as never before the danger and risk our law enforcement officers face every day as they place themselves in harm's way for our protection. The overwhelming majority of peace officers work hard every day for little pay to carry out their duties with dignity and respect for the rights of all. In responding to this law, most have worked diligently to collect this data with no extra funding or personnel.

Missouri's 2001 report is among the most comprehensive documentation of statewide traffic stops by race ever produced in this country. Missouri leads the way nationally on efforts to record and analyze traffic stops by race and to implement policies prohibiting the inappropriate use of race in police work. The report of a full year of data is an opportunity for all communities to move forward in our race relations, and it is in particular an opportunity for law enforcement in Missouri to work toward efforts to build trust in all communities in our state.

All law-abiding citizens have the right to travel on any and every public thoroughfare in this state. We must continue our efforts to ensure that right as a matter of equal justice under the law.

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FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: The figures for whites, Blacks, Asians, and American Indians in Table 4 represent the number of non-Hispanic persons 16 and older who designated that race alone in the 2000 Census. Hispanics may be of any race. About 1 percent of the population designated two or more races. These persons are included in the "Other" category along with persons of unknown race.

Footnote 2: The figures for 2000 reported in Appendix B have been recalculated using the population age 16 and older to allow direct comparisons with those for 2001.

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