June 2, 2010
Jefferson City, Mo. - Attorney General Chris Koster today released the tenth Annual Report on Vehicle Stops. The 2009 report contains analysis on more than 1.7 million stops by 642 law enforcement agencies, including racial and ethnic information about drivers who were stopped.
This year's report features enhanced on-line information on each law enforcement agency's statistics, providing searchable, historical data over the 10-year period. One helpful feature allows the viewer to graph vehicle stops over ten years for each law enforcement agency. The new website is available at: http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/.
"The value of the Vehicle Stops Report is increased by making it easily accessible to concerned citizens across our state," Koster said. "This new website is designed to provide citizens, law enforcement, the media and researchers with information that will assist in our common dialogue of this important issue."
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 2009 the statewide African-American disparity index was 1.62, up from the 2008 rate of 1.59. This increase was the fifth rise in the disparity index for African-American drivers in the past five years, and the ninth increase in 10 years.
The disparity index for African-Americans, Hispanics and whites since 2000 was:
The graph below shows the disparity indexes for the past ten years for African Americans, Hispanics and whites.
Stated another way, the graph depicts that African-American drivers were 70 percent more likely than white drivers to be stopped based on their proportion of driving-age population in 2009, compared to 30 percent more likely than whites in 2000.
"The fact that ten years after the first vehicle stops report African-American drivers are continuing to be stopped at higher rates is of concern to all Missourians," Koster said. "We are better citizens for welcoming an honest and informed discussion of this issue. It is my hope this report will be a catalyst for dialogue between law enforcement and the communities we serve."
The report shows the rate (disparity index) at which Hispanics were stopped decreased in 2009 to .81, compared to .95 in 2008, a rate lower than that of white drivers. 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. Hispanic drivers were 2.18 times more likely than white drivers to be searched. African-Americans were 1.76 times more likely to be searched when stopped than whites.
In another important finding, and despite the elevated search rates, Hispanics were less likely than white drivers to be found with contraband subsequent to being searched. While the "contraband hit rate" for whites was 22.56 percent, the percentage of Hispanics searched and found to have contraband was 13.42 percent. The "contraband hit rate" for African-American drivers was 17.22 percent.
Koster thanked and commended law enforcement agencies for their willingness to compile information for the report. He noted that 98.3 percent of agencies submitted information. Thirteen agencies did not respond in 2009. The Attorney General's office will submit the names of those agencies that did not respond to the Governor, as required by law.
Koster noted that the report contains information on vehicle stops from 642 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. Koster noted that general statewide trends do not necessarily reflect trends for individual departments, which should be considered on an individual basis.
The full report plus data for individual law enforcement agencies can be found online at http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/.