May 31, 2005
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today released the 2004 report on traffic stops in Missouri. The report, mandated by a 2000 state law on racial profiling, documents 1,365,575 traffic stops, 106,430 searches and 74,484 arrests made by 603 law enforcement agencies across the state, providing information for several different racial and ethnic groups.
The 2004 report is the fifth such report — and the fourth containing 12 months of data — compiled by the Attorney General's Office. Nixon presented copies of the report to Gov. Matt Blunt and the state General Assembly today, one day prior to the June 1 deadline required by the law.
"I appreciate the efforts of law enforcement agencies in Missouri to comply with this law by collecting the data and by working with my office to ensure that our analysis is as accurate as possible," Nixon said. "As they then review the information in the report and engage in dialogue with the communities they serve, it helps build trust between citizens and law enforcement."
The statewide numbers in the 2004 report indicate that African Americans were stopped at a rate 34 percent higher than expected based solely on their proportion of the driving-age population, down from 36 percent in 2003. When compared with whites, African-American drivers were 38 percent more likely to be stopped. The 2003 report showed that African Americans were 40 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers, based solely on their proportion of the driving-age population.
The 2004 report also shows that 12.02 percent of blacks who were stopped statewide were searched, compared to 7.03 percent of whites. A direct comparison of the two groups means an African-American driver who was stopped was 71 percent more likely to be searched than a white driver who was stopped.
Statewide, Hispanic drivers were stopped at a rate about seven percent more likely than their proportion of the population. Those Hispanic drivers who were stopped, however, were almost twice as likely to be searched as white drivers who were stopped.
Racial profiling can neither be proved or disproved by statistics alone, Nixon cautioned, and a statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement decisions involving traffic stops are being based solely on inappropriate factors.
"That being said, I urge Missouri law enforcement to continue their constructive efforts to eliminate any perceptions that traffic stops are being made solely on the basis of race, rather than for legitimate reasons," Nixon said.
Nixon noted that state law requires every 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.
A list of the 70 agencies that did not meet the reporting deadlines contained in the law — up from 56 in 2003 — also was provided to the governor as part of the report. State law allows the governor to withhold funding from any agency that does not comply. In 2004, the Missouri Department of Public Safety withheld more than $7,200 from 16 non-complying agencies that received state funding.
"Missouri will continue to lead the nation in assessing traffic stops and eliminating racial disparities in them," Nixon said. "The overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies and their officers have diligently complied with Missouri law by collecting this information and have worked with my office to ensure that our analysis is as accurate as possible.
"I have said this in analyzing each of these reports: law-abiding drivers have the right to travel throughout Missouri without the fear that they will be stopped based solely of their race or ethnicity," Nixon said. "I join with law enforcement officers from all parts of our state and with Missourians of all races in this commitment."