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Missouri Attorney General

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ON 2002 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. 2002 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 1,369,185 1,130,546 191,025 26,752 10,992 1,303 8,567
Searches 108,539 79,775 24,041 3,824 359 103 437
Arrests 79,576 57,400 18,817 2,690 271 79 319
Statewide population % 100% 85.24% 10.25% 1.85% 1.17% .41% 1.08%
Disparity index - - - .97 1.36 1.05 .68 .23 .58
Search rate 7.93% 7.06% 12.59% 14.29% 3.27% 7.90% 5.10%
Contraband hit rate 21.08% 22.60% 17.47% 17.26% 14.76% 26.21% 19.91%
Arrest rate 5.81% 5.08% 9.85% 10.06% 2.47% 6.06% 3.72%

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 620 law enforcement agencies in Missouri for 2002. This represents 86 percent of the 720 law enforcement agencies in the state. (An additional 41 of those agencies submitted letters indicating they made no traffic stops during the year.) The agencies filing reports recorded 1,369,185 traffic stops, resulting in 108,539 searches and 79,576 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 driving-age population 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 over-representation, and those below 1 indicate under-representation. For example, the 1,130,546 whites who were stopped accounted for 82.6 percent of all traffic stops in 2002.

According to the 2000 census, whites comprise 85.2 percent of Missouri's driving-age population. The value for whites on the disparity index is, therefore, .826/.852 or .97. 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 and older but 14 percent of all traffic stops, for a value on the disparity index of 1.36. African-Americans were stopped at a rate 36 percent higher than expected based solely on their proportion of the population 16 and older. Hispanics were stopped at a rate slightly above 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 groups can be compared directly to one another. For example, the likelihood that an African-American motorist was stopped is 1.4 times that of a white motorist (1.36/.97). In other words, African-Americans were 40 percent more likely than whites to be stopped in 2002.

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 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 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 under-represented 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 assess 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 7.93 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 (12.59/7.06); Hispanics were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched (14.29/7.06).

The reasons for conducting a search and the outcome of the search (such as finding contraband) should be considered when making comparisons across groups. 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.

Other searches are conducted incident to arrest — this means that there is no other reason given for the search other than arrest. Searches are almost always performed when there is an outstanding warrant.

The third summary indicator, the "contraband hit rate," reflects the percentage of searches in which contraband is found. Contraband is found in 21.1 percent of all searches conducted. However, there is considerable variation in the contraband hit rate across race and ethnic groups.

The contraband hit rate for whites was 22.6 percent, compared with 17.5 percent for blacks and 17.3 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 under 6 percent of all traffic stops resulted in an arrest (79,576/1,369,185). The probability of arrest varies across the race and ethnic groups. Approximately 10 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.

This year's report compares (PDF file 1,465K) the 2002 disparity index to the disparity indexes for 2002, 2001 and 2000.2

For each agency, the disparity index for each race-ethnic group is presented for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. For the state as a whole, the key indicators show only small changes between 2001 and 2002. The largest change is registered in the contraband hit rate (the fraction of searches in which contraband is found) for Hispanics. In 2001, 10.6 percent of searches of Hispanics resulted in contraband, compared with a contraband hit rate of 17.3 percent for Hispanics in 2002.

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)
Alexandria Police Department Altenburg Police Department Birch Tree Police Department
Bismarck Police Department Black Jack Police Department Breckenridge Police Department
Browning Police Department Burlington Junction Police Department Callao Police Department
Canalou Police Department Cardwell Police Department Chamois Police Department
Clarksburg Police Department Clyde Police Department Conway Police Department
Deepwater Police Department Delta Police Department Eminence Police Department
Farber Police Department Forest Park Police Department Gainesville Police Department
Glen Echo Park Police Department Golden City Police Department Grant City Police Department
Green City Police Department *Greenville Police Department Hardin Police Department
*Hartville Police Department Holland Police Department *Holt Police Department
Homestown Police Department Howardville Police Department Kidder Police Department
Laddonia Police Department Matthews Police Department Mayview Police Department
Mill Springs Police Department Mineral Point Police Department Naylor Police Department
Neelyville Police Department New Cambria Police Department *New Madrid Police Department
Niangua Police Department Oakland Police Department Oronogo Police Department
Portage Des Sioux Police Department Purdin Police Department Rayville Police Department
Sheldon Police Department Sparta Police Department Stewartsville Police Department
Sycamore Hills Police Department Twin Bridges Police Department Unity Village Police Department
Vinita Terrace Police Department Wardell Police Department Waverly Police Department
Wayland Police Department Winston Police Department
Table 3. Agencies that submitted incomplete reports
Garden City Police Department Hollister Police Department Vandalia Police Department
Table 4. Agencies that reported no stops (many contract out traffic stops to other agencies)
Anniston Police Department Avondale Police Department Bull Creek Police Department
Calhoun Police Department Clarksville Police Department Dearborn Police Department
Fairview Police Department Forest City Police Department Frankford Police Department
Gravois Mills Police Department Greendale Police Department Greenfield Police Department
Hanley Hills Police Department Hermitage Police Department Homestead Village Police Department
Hunnewell Police Department Huntleigh Police Department Irondale Police Department
King City Police Department Marionville Police Department Maysville Police Department
Morley Police Department Prairie Home Police Department Qulin Police Department
Rush Hill Police Department Russellville Police Department Shelbyville Police Department
St. Louis City Sheriff's Department St. Louis County Sheriff's Department Stockton Police Department
Tallapoosa Police Department Taos Police Department Theodosia Police Department
Union Star Police Department Urich Police Department Valley Park Police Department
Westwood Police Department Wheeling Police Department Winchester Police Department
Wood Heights Police Department Wyatt Police Department

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III. ANALYSIS BY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAY NIXON

This is the third annual analysis of traffic stops issued by the Attorney General's Office under Section 590.650 RSMo (2000), and the second compiling a full 12 months of data. Our analysis shows the 2002 data confirms the racial disparities reported for 2001, the first full year of data, and does nothing to dispel the prevalent perception that African Americans are stopped at a disproportionate rate compared to whites, and that both African Americans and Hispanics are searched at disproportionately high rates. These disparities remain significant, and are cause for concern.

Statistical disproportion, however, does not prove that law enforcement decisions involving traffic stops are being based solely on inappropriate factors. Racial profiling, as a matter of policy or individual practice, can neither be proved nor disproved by statistics alone. Nevertheless, these statistics provide objective evidence of a disproportion that many perceive to be a result of bias, and should be cause for heightened public awareness and debate about this issue.

In 2000, Missouri became a national leader in committing resources to assessing racial disparities in traffic stops and eliminating them. The overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies and their officers have diligently complied with Missouri law requiring that this information be collected and have worked with this office to ensure that our analysis is as accurate as possible. In addition, Missouri law now requires every agency to have a written policy regarding racial profiling; to provide additional training to its officers about the prohibition against this practice; and to promote the use of effective, non-combative methods for carrying out law enforcement duties in a racially and culturally diverse environment.

The 2002 data clearly refutes suspicions raised by some that collection of this information would result in "de-policing" or, in other words, a willful refusal of law enforcement officials to do their jobs. Law enforcement officers around the state, despite being outnumbered, overworked, and underpaid, continue to serve the public and faithfully discharge their duties as they always have and, I believe, always will.

Though, as I have noted and as the data shows, there is cause for concern and heightened scrutiny about the disproportionate number of traffic stops involving African Americans as well as the disproportionate number of ensuing searches of African Americans and Hispanics, it is important to note that it is law enforcement agencies and their officers themselves that are supplying this data and reacting to the disparities.

I applaud the efforts of law enforcement in helping to shed light on this issue, and I have referred those agencies (59 out of 720) that did not meet the reporting deadlines to the Governor for imposition of the statutory sanctions.

Section Il of this report, titled Statewide Findings, provides an analysis of the 2002 data, and compares that information to prior years. This analysis is done statewide and is not a reflection on any individual jurisdiction. In addition, as with any statistical analysis, there are limitations in the data that caution against drawing conclusions on less than the overall study.

Within any jurisdiction — perhaps within every jurisdiction — there are factors such as interstate highways, shopping centers and high-crime areas necessitating increased patrols that can affect the statistics reported. Factors may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction that impact the demographics of the drivers in that jurisdiction as opposed to the residents in that jurisdiction. Finally, it should be remembered that the residential demographics are drawn by necessity from the 2000 census, which is an increasingly inaccurate depiction of Missouri demographics today.

Whatever the limitations of the data may be, however, they do not explain the disparities revealed by the data on a statewide basis. I believe that law-abiding Missourians have a right to travel throughout this state without fear that they will be stopped — an inconvenience at best and a humiliation at worst — based solely on their race or ethnicity. I know firsthand that Missourians of all races and law enforcement officers throughout our state share this belief. All of us must work together to ensure that this commitment will soon be reflected in the data that I am required by law to analyze and report.

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FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: The figures for whites, blacks, Asians, and American Indians in Table 1 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: Caution should be used when comparing 2000 to subsequent years, especially for smaller agencies, because the 2000 figures are based on only four months of traffic data, while those for 2001 and 2002 are based on the full calendar year.

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