May 25, 2006
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today presented copies of the 2005 report on vehicle stops in Missouri to Gov. Blunt and the General Assembly. The report, mandated by a 2000 state law on racial profiling, documents 1,504,274 vehicle stops, 119,872 searches and 81,777 arrests made by 624 law enforcement agencies across the state and compares the data for several different racial and ethnic groups.
The 2005 report is the sixth such report compiled by the Attorney General's Office, and was released one week prior to the June 1 deadline required by the law. The entire report, including statewide information and information about individual agencies, can be viewed online at ago.mo.gov.
“The vast majority of law enforcement agencies continue to cooperate with the law by working with my office to ensure that our analysis is as accurate as possible,” Nixon said. “The information in this report serves as an important basis for dialogue between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Nixon noted that the overall number of vehicle stops recorded increased by 10 percent, to more than 1.5 million stops from 1.37 million from 2004. A change in the law that took effect in August 2004 requires law enforcement to report on a wider variety of stops, including investigative stops.
The statewide numbers in the 2005 report indicate that African Americans were stopped at a rate 42 percent higher than expected based solely on their proportion of the driving-age population, up from 34 percent in 2004. When compared with whites, African-American drivers were 46 percent more likely to be stopped. The 2004 report showed that African Americans were 38 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers, based solely on their proportion of the driving-age population.
The 2005 report also shows that 12.52 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 78 percent more likely to be searched than a white driver who was stopped.
Statewide, Hispanic drivers were stopped at a rate about three percent less 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.
“Missouri law enforcement should 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 annual 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 32 agencies that did not submit reports as required by the law — down from 64 in 2004 — 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 2005, the Missouri Department of Public Safety withheld $7,166 from 17 non-complying agencies that received state funding.
“Missouri leads the country in assessing traffic stops,” 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.
“As I have said 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 on 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.”