May 31, 2007
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today presented to the Governor and the General Assembly the seventh annual report on traffic stops in Missouri. The report provides racial and ethnic information about drivers who were stopped by Missouri law enforcement in more than 1.6 million traffic stops in the state in 2006.
A law passed in 2000 requires all peace officers in Missouri to report specific information for each vehicle stop made in the state. The same law requires the Attorney General to then compile the information into a report for the executive and legislative branches no later than June 1. The report, available online at ago.mo.gov, includes information for 635 law enforcement agencies across the state and information for the state as a whole.
Nixon said the overall state numbers provided two particularly noteworthy items.
“The total number of vehicle stops increased from around 1.5 million in 2005 to more than 1.6 million in 2006,” Nixon said. “One possible explanation for this increase is a change in the law that took effect in August 2004 that requires reporting of a wider variety of stops, including investigative stops. It may also reflect better reporting methods used by different law enforcement agencies.”
The other item Nixon noted was the increase in the disparity index for African-American and Hispanic drivers. The disparity index compares the proportion of stops for drivers of a particular race or ethnicity to the proportion of state or local population of that racial or ethnic group. A value of 1 represents no disparity; values over 1 indicate over-representation, while values under 1 indicate under-representation.
“The disparity index for African-American drivers increased from 1.42 in 2005 to 1.49 in 2006, while the disparity index for Hispanic drivers went from .97 two years ago to 1.09 last year,” Nixon said. “The numbers for both sets of drivers continue to be a concern. With 635 law enforcement agencies providing data about their traffic stops, there is no single explanation why these disparities exist. But this report is laid out in such a way that the numbers from each agency can be examined, and appropriate questions asked of those agencies.”
Overall, the report documents 1,603,245 stops, 128,377 searches and 94,286 arrests from 2006. The statewide numbers indicate that African-American drivers were 57 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers, while Hispanic drivers were 15 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers. The 2006 report also shows that of those drivers who were stopped, 13.06 percent of African Americans, 14.74 percent of Hispanics, and 6.86 percent of whites were searched.
State law requires every law enforcement agency to have a written policy regarding racial profiling. Each agency also is required 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.
The number of agencies that did not submit reports as required by law dropped from 32 in 2005 to 19 in 2006. A list of those agencies has been turned over to the Governor, who has authority to withhold state funding from those agencies.