Home 9 Get Help 9 Vehicle Stops Report 9 2012 VEHICLE STOPS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


Concerns by the citizens of Missouri and the Missouri legislature regarding allegations of racial profiling by law enforcement prompted the passage of state law Section 590.650, RSMo (2000), which was enacted Aug. 28, 2000. Racial profiling has been defined as the inappropriate use of race by law enforcement when making a decision to stop, search or arrest a motorist.

Missouri’s state law requires that all peace officers in the state report specific information including a driver’s race for each vehicle stop made in the state. Law enforcement agencies are required to turn in the data to the Attorney General, and the Attorney General is required to compile the data and report to the Governor no later than June 1 of each year. The law allows the Governor to withhold state funds for any agency that does not comply with the law. State law requires that all information be reported to the Attorney General’s Office by March 1.

The summary of statewide racial profiling data has been provided by Scott H. Decker, professor and director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University; Richard Rosenfeld, professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; and Jeffrey Rojek, assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina.

Table 1. 2012 statewide summary of results

Total White Black Hispanic Asian Am. Indian Other
Population 4,730,501 3,914,998 515,828 139,109 80,677 19,168 60,721
Stops 1,635,477 1,298,932 278,964 28,642 14,011 1,343 13,585
Searches 104,535 72,131 28,322 3,044 453 86 499
Arrests 78,584 53,963 21,445 2,404 354 70 348
Statewide population % 100% 82.76% 10.90% 2.94% 1.71% .41% 1.28%
Disparity index – – – .96 1.57 .60 .50 .20 .65
Search rate 6.39% 5.55% 10.15% 10.63% 3.23% 6.40% 3.67%
Contraband hit rate 23.41% 25.54% 18.75% 16.92% 19.96% 22.09% 24.14%
Arrest rate 4.80% 4.15% 7.69% 8.39% 2.53% 5.21% 2.56%
Notes: Population figures are 2010 census estimates for persons 16 and older who designated a single race. Hispanics may be of any race. Other includes persons of mixed race and unknown race.

Disparity index = (proportion of stops / proportion of population). A value of 1 represents no disparity; values greater than 1 indicate over-representation, values less than 1 indicate under-representation.

Search rate = (searches / stops) X 100.

Contraband hit rate = (searches with contraband found / total searches) X 100.

Arrest rate = (arrests / stops) X 100.



This report summarizes the data from 617 law enforcement agencies in Missouri for calendar year 2012. An additional 39 agencies indicated they made no traffic stops during the year. This represents 96% of the 682 law enforcement agencies in the state.

The agencies filing reports recorded a total of 1,635,477 traffic stops, resulting in 104,535 searches and 78,584 arrests. Table 1 breaks out the stops, searches and arrests by race and ethnic group. Footnote 1

Four summary indicators are included in Table 1 that may be useful in initiating further assessments of racial profiling in traffic stops. The first, termed the “disparity index,” relates each group’s proportion of total traffic stops to its proportion of the driving-age population 16 years-old and older. Footnote 2

A value of 1 on this index indicates that a group’s proportion of vehicle stops equals its population proportion: it is neither “under-represented” nor “over-represented” in vehicle stops. Values above 1 indicate over-representation, and those below 1 indicate under-representation. For example, the 1,298,932 whites who were stopped accounted for 79.4% of all traffic stops in 2012.

Whites comprise an estimated 82.8 percent of Missouri’s driving age population. The value for whites on the disparity index is, therefore, .96 (.794/.828). Whites were stopped, in other words, at slightly below the rate expected based on their fraction of the estimated population age 16 and older.

The same is not the case for several of the other groups. African-Americans represent 10.90% of the population sixteen years and older but 17.06% of all traffic stops, for a value on the disparity index of 1.57. African-Americans were stopped at a rate 57% greater than expected based solely on their proportion of the population sixteen and older.

Hispanics, Asians, American Indians, and persons of mixed or unknown race were stopped at rates well below their proportion of the driving-age population. The values on the disparity index for the different groups can be compared directly to one another. For example, the likelihood that a black motorist was stopped is 1.64 times that of a white motorist (1.57/.96). In other words, blacks were 64% more likely than whites to be stopped based on their respective proportions of the Missouri driving-age population in 2012.

The disparity index is a gauge of the likelihood drivers of a given race or ethnic group are stopped based on their proportion of the residential population 16 and older, and not on the population of motorists on the state’s streets, roads and highways. A group’s share of the residential population 16 and older may or may not equal its proportion of drivers.

Although in most instances the two proportions should be close, that may not always be the case.

The extremely low Disparity Index value for American Indians, for example, could indicate that they are under-represented among the state’s motorists. In addition, motorists from other states are stopped on Missouri’s roadways. To the extent that out-of-state drivers do not reflect the race and ethnic composition of Missouri’s population, the Disparity Index will not accurately portray the probability that Missouri residents are stopped.

The second indicator that can be used to assess racial profiling is the “search rate,” or the number of searches divided by the number of stops (x 100). (Searches include searches of drivers or property in the vehicle.)

The search rate for all motorists who were stopped is 6.4 percent. Asians were searched at a rate well below the statewide average; Blacks and Hispanics were searched at rates above the average for all motorists who were stopped.

The search rate for the different groups also can be compared directly with one another. Blacks were 1.83 times more likely to be searched than whites (10.15/5.55). Hispanics were 1.91 times more likely than whites to be searched (10.63/5.55).

The reasons for conducting a search and the outcome of the search (such as finding contraband) should be considered when making comparisons across groups.

Some searches are conducted with the consent of the driver, or because the officer observed suspected contraband in plain view, had reasonable suspicion that an individual may possess a weapon (Terry search), or other reasons. These searches may or may not result in an arrest.

Other searches are conducted incident to arrest, which means there is no other reason given for the search other than arrest. Searches are almost always performed when there is an outstanding arrest warrant, whether or not contraband may be present.

The third summary indicator, the “contraband hit rate,” reflects the percentage of searches in which contraband is found. Contraband was found in 23.4% of all searches that were conducted in 2012. There is considerable variation, however, in the contraband hit rate across race and ethnic groups.

The contraband hit rate for whites was 25.5%, compared with 18.8% for Blacks and 16.9% for Hispanics. This means that on average searches of Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than searches of whites to result in the discovery of contraband. This difference may result in part from the higher arrest rates for blacks and Hispanics, circumstances that compel a search.

The “arrest rate” is the fourth summary indicator included in Table 1 that may be useful for assessing racial profiling. Just under 5% of all traffic stops resulted in an arrest (78,584/1,635,477). The probability of arrest varies across the race and ethnic groups.

Approximately 7.7% of the stops of African-Americans and 8.4% of the stops of Hispanics resulted in arrest, compared with 4.2% of the stops of whites. African-Americans and Hispanics are searched more often than whites, but they are arrested more often as well.

There are two appendices to this year’s full report. Appendix A presents the vehicle stop analysis using the statewide proportions of race and ethnicity, rather than those for each jurisdiction.

This year’s report compares the 2012 disparity index to the disparity index for 2000 through 2011. These comparisons are presented in Appendix B.

For each agency, the disparity index for each race-ethnic group is presented for the years 2000-2012. For the state as a whole, the key indicators generally show small changes between 2011 and 2012.

A reasoned determination of the existence of racial profiling in a community requires a comprehensive evaluation of the full range of information compiled in the agency reports. This brief summary of selected indicators for the state as a whole is intended to stimulate those local evaluations and dialogue.

Table 2. Agencies that did not submit reports as required by state law
Arbyrd Police Department Aurora Police Department Bismark Police Department
Brunswick Police Department Catron Police Department Edina Police Department
Emma Police Department Farber Police Department Gideon Police Department
Huntsville Police Department Iron Mountain Lake Police Department Kinloch Police Department
Lake Lafayette Police Department Leasburg Police Department Libourn Police Department
Miller Police Department New Franklin Police Department Oran Police Department
Perryville Police Department Stewartsville Police Department Strasburg Police Department
Van Buren Police Department Wellston Police Department
Table 3. Agencies that submitted incomplete reports
Bates City Police Department Dade County Sheriff’s Department St. Charles Police Department
Table 4. Agencies that reported no stops (many contract out vehicle stops to other agencies)
Altenburg Police Department Bland Police Department Bull Creek Village Police Dept.
Bunker Police Dept. Centerview Police Dept. Clarksburg Police Dept.
Clarkson Valley Police Dept. Deepwater Police Dept. Dellwood Police Department
Dudley Police Dept. Eolia Police Dept. Fairfax Police Dept.
Fisk Police Department Flordell Hills Police Dept. Gilman City Police Dept.
Golden City Police Dept. Grant City Police Dept. Harrison County Sheriff’s Department
Higbee Police Dept. Irondale Police Department Jackson County Drug Task Force
Jennings Police Dept. Kimmswick Police Dept. Kingsville Police Department
Mayview Police Department Montrose Police Department Neelyville Police Department
New Cambria Police Department Olympian Village Police Department Pasadena Park Police Department
Shelbyville Police Department St. George Police Department Tallaoosa Police Department
Taos Police Department Union Star Police Department Uplands Park Police Department
Wardsville Police Department Westwood Police Department Windsor Police Department



Thirteen years ago Missouri released its first report on vehicle stop data.  This report represents the thirteenth annual analysis of vehicle stop data in Missouri, a review that includes information about 1,635,477 million stops by law enforcement in the state during 2012.

The analysis in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 used census estimates to reflect the changes in Missouri’s population since the 2000 census. That census was the benchmark for the previous five reports.  The 2010, 2011 and 2012 analysis used census estimates from the 2010 census.

As our state’s population changes in number and demographics, these census estimates can help provide a more accurate benchmark to analyze the data.

The overall number of stops reported decreased in 2012. As it has in the past, the disparity index for African-American drivers continues to be of significant concern. The disparity index for African-American drivers decreased slightly from 1.63 in 2011 to 1.57 in 2012. The disparity index for Hispanic drivers also decreased from .65 in 2011 to .60 in 2012.  However, both groups continue to have search rates significantly higher than that of white drivers.

These findings continue a disturbing trend for African-American drivers in Missouri. Specifically, the disparity indexes for African-American drivers have increased in each of the last eight years except 2010 and 2012, exhibiting disparity indexes of 1.42 in 2005, 1.49 in 2006, 1.58 in 2007, 1.59 in 2008 and 1.62 in 2009, a slight decrease in 2010 to 1.61, 1.63 in 2011 and then a slight decrease to 1.57 in 2012.  In fact, the disparity rate for African-American drivers has gone down only three times in the history of the report, and then only slightly, to 1.34 in 2004 from 1.36 in 2003, to 1.61 in 2010 from 1.62 in 2009 and to 1.57 in 2012 from 1.63 in 2011.  Stated another way, the disparity index for African-American drivers has increased in ten of the last thirteen years.  The 2012 disparity rate of 1.57 compares to a rate of 1.27 thirteen years ago.  African-American drivers were 64 percent more likely than white drivers to be stopped based on their proportion of driving-age population in 2012, compared to 30 percent more likely than white drivers in 2000.

With 617 law enforcement agencies conducting vehicle stops in Missouri, there is no single explanation why these disparities exist. This report provides statistical information so the data from each agency can be examined, and appropriate questions asked of those agencies.

In 2004, state law was changed to require law enforcement to include investigative vehicle stops in their reports, in addition to the stops for traffic violations.

One of the best uses of these reports is as a springboard for dialogue and communication between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. It is vital that Missouri law enforcement agencies continue to review the rates of stops and searches and to continue their outreach efforts.

Statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver. The compilation and analysis of data, however, does provide both law enforcement and the community with a starting point for dialogue to appreciate each other’s perspective and arrive at common ground.

I am proud that Missouri took a leading role, under the stewardship of then-Attorney General Nixon, Governor Carnahan and many in the legislature, in passing legislation requiring the collection and examination of vehicle stop data on this scale. I pledge to continue that tradition in carrying on the detailed and critical examination necessary to ensure fairness to Missouri’s law enforcement application. It is my hope that this report may serve as a springboard to open dialogue and legislative review.

We continue to show that commitment through laws that require each law enforcement agency not only to 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.

Missouri’s law enforcement members continue to do commendable work in the face of many challenges. I appreciate their efforts and willingness to compile the information for these annual reports.

The number of agencies that did not comply with the vehicle stops reporting law in 2012 decreased to 23.  This represents a slight decrease from 2011 when 25 departments failed to report.  Failure to report is unacceptable and should be considered so by the General Assembly. A list of these agencies has been turned over to the Governor for imposition of the statutory sanctions.

Along with the data, several individual law enforcement agencies provided other information about factors that may impact their numbers. The reader should consider these factors when examining the data.

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. I am confident that Missourians of all races and ethnic groups and law enforcement officers from throughout the state agree with me.


Footnote 1: Hispanics may be of any race. About 1 percent of the population designated two or more races. These persons are included in the “other” category along with persons of unknown race.

Footnote 2: The population totals in the table are from the 2010 Census.

Footnote 3: Caution should be used when comparing 2000 to subsequent years, especially for smaller agencies, because the 2000 figures are based on only four months of traffic data, while those for subsequent years are based on the full calendar year.

Footnote 4: The Department of Conservation attempted to timely submit their data report, but due to a technical error, it was not received such that it could be included in the statistical analysis. Nevertheless, the Department of Conservation’s 2012 data are presented here in Appendix C.