June 1, 2009
Jefferson City, Mo. - Attorney General Chris Koster today released Missouri's 2008 Annual Report on Vehicle Stops. The report includes analysis on more than 1.6 million stops by 639 law enforcement agencies, including racial and ethnic information about drivers who were stopped.
The 2008 report shows that African-Americans continue to be stopped at materially higher rates than either whites or Hispanics.
The report focuses primarily on traffic stop "disparity indexes," which compare 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.
Koster said in 2008 the African-American disparity index was 1.59, up slightly from the 2007 rate of 1.58. This increase was the fourth rise in the disparity index for African-American drivers in the past four years. Disparity indexes for African-American drivers in the past five years were 1.34 in 2004, 1.42 in 2005, 1.49 in 2006, 1.58 in 2007 and 1.59 in 2008. In comparison, the disparity index for both whites and Hispanics was .95 in 2008. General statewide trends do not necessarily reflect trends for individual departments, which should be considered on an individual basis.
The disparity index for African-Americans was 1.27 in 2000, the first year in which the report was issued. Subsequently, the index remained in a range of 1.33 to 1.36 for three years, before beginning a generally upward trend.
Statewide data indicates that African-American drivers were 67 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers to be stopped in 2008, despite being 15 percent less likely to be arrested following the stop.
"The increasing rates at which African-American drivers are stopped are of concern to all Missourians," Koster said. "While no single factor can provide the entire explanation for these numbers, one goal remains fixed -- application of the law must be colorblind."
Koster noted that the report contains information on vehicle stops from 639 law enforcement agencies, so each individual community can examine its own data and situation. For example, it is helpful to compare departments of a similar size or from similar geographic areas. Additionally, factors such as crime patterns or the existence of an interstate highway in a given region may affect data samples.
The report shows the rate (disparity index) at which Hispanic drivers were stopped decreased from 1.0 in 2007 to .95 in 2008, equaling the white rate. However, search rates (the rates at which drivers of a given race are searched subsequent to a traffic stop) for both Hispanic and African-American drivers were significantly higher than for whites. African-Americans were 1.67 times more likely to be searched when stopped than whites. Hispanics were 2.02 times more likely than whites to be searched.
However, the report indicates that while Hispanics are more likely to be searched than whites, they are less likely than white drivers to be found with contraband subsequent to being searched. While the "contraband hit rate" for whites was 20.4 percent, the percentage of Hispanics searched and found to have contraband was 13.5 percent. The "contraband hit rate" for African-American drivers was 16.6 percent.
Koster thanked and commended law enforcement agencies for their willingness to compile information for the report. He noted that 98.5 percent of agencies submitted information. Eleven agencies did not respond in 2008, compared to 22 in 2007. The Attorney General's office will submit the names of those agencies that did not respond to the Governor, as required by law.
"We are better citizens for welcoming an honest and informed discussion of this issue," Koster said. "Citizens across the racial spectrum in our state, both inside and outside of law enforcement, want to understand and fully address this issue. It is my hope this report will be a catalyst for dialogue between law enforcement and the communities we serve," Koster said.