Police officers in riot gear stand in position as demonstrators protest the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 19, 2014.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Reuters

Missouri traffic stop report reveals racial disparity

Updated

Police officers in Missouri were 75% more likely to stop black drivers though white drivers were more likely to be caught with illegal contraband, according to a report released on Monday by State Attorney General Chris Koster.

The racial disparity in who police officers targeted for vehicle stops in 2014 was the highest since 2000, according to the report.

The annual Missouri Vehicle Stops report comes amid widespread calls for police reform in the wake of last summer’s killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown Jr. by a former Ferguson police officer. Supporters of Brown and his family say Brown was unfairly targeted and that his killing was part of a broader system of racially biased policing that pervades not just the state of Missouri but communities across the country in which blacks are mistreated by law enforcement.

The state legislature passed a racial profiling bill in the summer of 2000 in response to allegations of racial profiling by police, including inappropriate use of race when making a decision to stop, search or arrest drivers.

According to this year’s report, black drivers were not only more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts but police were 73% more likely to search a black driver than they were a white driver. But white motorists were nearly 6% more likely to be found with illegal contraband.

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“As it has in the past, the disparity index for African-American drivers continues to be of significant concern,” Koster wrote in his analysis of the report’s findings. “These findings continue a disturbing trend for African-American drivers in Missouri. The disparity index for African-American drivers has increased steadily over the last fifteen years, with only slight, temporary drops.”

Despite noting a continued and dramatic increase in the disparity between who the police choose to stop, who is searched and what group is more likely to have illegal contraband, Koster said there is no single explanation for the disparities and no evidence to prove that police officers are “making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver.”

Meanwhile, the trend lines continue to widen in shocking fashion.

In the state’s first motor vehicle stops report in 2000 black drivers were just 31% more likely to be stopped by police compared to 75% more likely fourteen years later. 

Black Lives Matter, Ferguson and Policing

Missouri traffic stop report reveals racial disparity

Updated