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Missouri Attorney General

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ON 2005 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 vehicle 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 that 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 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; Richard Rosenfeld, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; and Jeffrey Rojek, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina.

Table 1. 2005 statewide summary of results
Key Indicators Total White Black Hispanic Asian Am. Indian Other
Population 4,545,075 3,829,501 483,007 100,745 62,690 20,933 48,199
Stops 1,504,274 1,222,924 226,779 32,428 11,654 1,337 9,152
Searches 119,872 85,968 28,398 4,511 393 109 493
Arrests 81,777 59,622 18,805 2,783 264 71 232
Statewide population % 100% 84.26% 10.63% 2.22% 1.38% .46% 1.06%
Disparity index - - - .97 1.42 .97 .56 .20 .58
Search rate 7.97% 7.03% 12.52% 13.91% 3.37% 8.15% 5.39%
Contraband hit rate 22.03% 23.60% 18.61% 14.52% 14.76% 23.85% 19.47%
Arrest rate 5.44% 4.88% 8.29% 8.58% 2.27% 5.31% 2.53%

Notes: Population figures are 2005 census estimates 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 624 law enforcement agencies in Missouri for 2005. An additional 48 agencies submitted letters indicating they made no vehicle stops during the year. These 672 agencies represent 95.5 percent of the 704 law enforcement agencies in the state.

The agencies filing reports recorded a total of 1,504,274 vehicle stops, resulting in 119,872 searches and 81,777 arrests. Table 1 breaks out the stops, searches and arrests by race and ethnic group.1

The population totals in the table are census estimates for 2005 compiled by Geolytics Inc. In previous reports, the population totals were from the 2000 census. The estimated totals are used in this report to reflect population change in Missouri since 2000. “These estimates,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau, “are used in federal funding allocations, as denominators for vital rates and per capita time series, as survey controls, and in monitoring recent demographic changes” (emphasis added; see www.census.gov/popest/estimates.php).2

Four summary indicators are included in Table 1 that may be useful in initiating further assessments of racial profiling in vehicle stops. The first, termed the “disparity index,” relates each group's proportion of total vehicle 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 vehicle stops equals its population proportion: it is neither “under-represented” nor “over-represented” in vehicle stops. Values above 1 indicate over-representation, and those below 1 indicate under-representation. For example, the 1,222,924 whites who were stopped accounted for 81.3 percent of all vehicle stops in 2005.

Whites comprise an estimated 84.3 percent of Missouri's driving-age population. The value for whites on the disparity index is, therefore, .97 (.813/.842). 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 10.6 percent of the population 16 and older but 15.1 percent of all vehicle stops, for a value on the disparity index of 1.42.

African-Americans were stopped at a rate 42 percent greater than expected based solely on their proportion of the population 16 and older.

Hispanics were stopped at a rate slightly below their population proportion, and Asians, American Indians and persons of mixed or unknown race were stopped at a rate well below their proportion of the driving-age 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 1.46 times that of a white motorist (1.42/.97). In other words, African-Americans were 46 percent more likely than whites to be stopped in 2005.

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). (Searches include searches of drivers or property in the vehicle.) The search rate for all motorists who were stopped is 7.97 percent. Asians were searched at a rate well below the statewide average, and African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians were searched at rates above the average for all motorists who were stopped.

The search rates for the groups also can be compared directly with one another. African-Americans were 1.78 times more likely to be searched than whites (12.52/7.03). Hispanics were 1.98 times more likely than whites to be searched (13.91/7.03).

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, which means 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 was found in 22 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 23.6 percent, compared with 18.6 percent for African-Americans and 14.5 percent for Hispanics. This means that on average, searches of African-Americans and Hispanics are less likely than searches of whites to produce contraband. This difference may result in part from the higher arrest rates for African-Americans 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 vehicle stops resulted in an arrest (81,777/1,504,274). The probability of arrest varies across the race and ethnic groups.

Between 8 percent and 9 percent of the stops of African-Americans and Hispanics resulted in arrest, compared with just under 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.

There are three appendixes to this year's full report. Appendix A presents the vehicle stop analysis using the statewide proportions of race and ethnicity, rather than those for each jurisdiction.

This year's report compares the 2005 disparity index to the disparity indexes for 2000 through 2004.3 These comparisons are presented in Appendix B.

For each agency, the disparity index for each race-ethnic group is presented for 2000-2005. For the state as a whole, the key indicators show very small changes between 2004 and 2005. The disparity index is highly stable across the two years. The search rate (percentage of stops in which a search is conducted) for American Indians in 2005 drops to 8.2 percent from 9.7 percent in 2004. This decrease may reflect the lower arrest rate for American Indians in 2005 (5.3 percent) than in 2004 (6.9 percent).

This year a new appendix is included, Appendix C. This appendix presents the key indicators using the 2000 census figures for each jurisdiction's race and ethnic proportions.

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 Belle Police Department Birch Tree Police Department
Bismarck Police Department Bland Police Department Brunswick Police Department
Bull Creek Village Police Department Butterfield Police Department Camden Point Police Department
Canalou Police Department *Conway Police Department Cowgill Police Department
Creighton Police Department Eminence Police Department Fisk Police Department
Glen Echo Park Police Department Glenwood Police Department Golden City Police Department
Hardin Police Department Howardville Police Department Irondale Police Department
Lake Timberline Police Department Lilbourn Police Department Lowry City Police Department
Queen City Police Department Qulin Police Department Revere Police Department
Stanberry Police Department Stockton Police Department Walker Police Department
Wellington Police Department Winfield Police Department
Table 3. Agencies that submitted incomplete reports
Kinloch Police Department    
Table 4. Agencies that reported no stops (many contract out traffic stops to other agencies)
Anniston Police Department Atlanta Police Department Augusta Police Department
Berger Police Department Calhoun Police Department Chamois Police Department
Deepwater Police Department DeWitt Police Department Dudley Police Department
Essex Police Department Fairview Police Department Forest City Police Department
Frankford Police Department Gravois Mills Police Department Holland Police Department
Homestead Village Police Department Hornersville Police Department Houston Lake Police Department
Jasper Police Department Keytesville Police Department King City Police Department
LaBelle Police Department Laddonia Police Department Lake Annette Police Department
Leasburg Police Department Maysville Police Department Mayview Police Department
Meramec College Police Department Mokane Police Department Neelyville Police Department
Newburg Police Department Niangua Police Department Norwood Police Department
Oakland Police Department Oregon Police Department Oronogo Police Department
Pasadena Park Police Department Prairie Home Police Department Schuyler County Sheriff's Department
Shannon County Sheriff's Department Shelbyville Police Department St. Louis Community College Police Department
Tallapoosa Police Department Urich Police Department Vinita Terrace Police Department
Westwood Police Department Winchester Police Department Wyatt Police Department

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III. ANALYSIS BY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAY NIXON

This is the sixth annual analysis of vehicle stop data in Missouri under a law passed in 2000 by the General Assembly. This report can be compared to all the previous reports on our site.

This report uses census estimates for 2005 to reflect the changes in Missouri's population since the 2000 census, which was the benchmark for the previous five reports. As our state's population grows, these census estimates can help provide a more accurate benchmark to analyze the data. (Appendix C, found in Volume 8, provides key indicators by each agency using the 2000 census information.)

The statewide statistics for 2005 show some notable changes from previous years that were analyzed. The overall number of stops cataloged went from just under 1.37 million in 2004 to just over 1.5 million in 2005, an increase of 10 percent. A part of this increase could be explained by a change in the law that took effect in August 2004 that requires reporting of a wider variety of stops, including investigative stops.

The other notable changes contained in the 2005 report are in the disparity indexes for stops of African-American and Hispanic drivers. The disparity index for African-American drivers increased from 1.34 in 2004 to 1.42 in 2005, while the disparity index for Hispanic drivers decreased from 1.07 in 2004 to .97 in 2005. Both groups continue to have higher search rates than that of white drivers.

I encourage Missouri law enforcement agencies to continue their ongoing review of the rates of stops and searches and to continue outreach efforts in promoting effective communications with the communities they serve. Statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver.

The compilation and analysis of data, however, do help both law enforcement and the community with a starting point for dialogue to appreciate each other's perspective and arrive at common ground.

Missouri continues to be the national leader in collecting and examining vehicle stop data on this scale. We also are committed to eliminating racial disparities through state laws that require each law enforcement agency to not only have a written policy regarding racial profiling, but also to provide additional training to officers and to promote the use of effective, non-combative methods for carrying out their duties in a racially and culturally diverse environment.

I greatly appreciate the efforts and willingness of Missouri law enforcement to collect the data on these 1.5 million vehicle stops. These agencies continue to do a difficult job well, even in the face of funding and staffing challenges.

Agencies were encouraged to submit their data online to my office, providing increased efficiency for the law enforcement agency and for the Attorney General's Office. Perhaps relatedly, the number of agencies not complying with the vehicle stops reporting law dropped to 32 from 64 in 2004, an encouraging sign. A list of these agencies has been turned over to the Governor for imposition of the statutory sanctions.

As in years past, this report provides individual law enforcement agencies with the opportunity to provide a synopsis of factors that may impact their numbers. The reader should consider these factors when examining the data.

As I have said in my analysis of previous reports: law-abiding drivers have the right to travel throughout Missouri without the fear that they will be stopped based solely on their race or ethnicity. Missourians of all races and ethnic groups and law enforcement officers from throughout the state are committed to this premise with me.

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FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: 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: For detailed descriptions of the methodology used in forming the population estimates, see www.census.gov/popest/topics/methodology/2004_su_meth.html and www.geolytics.com/USCensus,Estimates-Projections,Data,Methodology,Products.asp.

Footnote 3: 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 subsequent years are based on the full calendar year.

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