Vehicle Stops In Missouri: Blacks Still Disproportionately Targeted

May 30, 2014

Police stopped more than a million drivers in Missouri in 2013, statistics released Friday show, with African Americans still more likely to be pulled over than whites.

Credit (via Flickr/davidsonscott15)

The Missouri Attorney General's office released the annual Vehicle Stops Report (VSR) Friday. In a statement, Attorney General Chris Koster said that the disproportionate number of stops of African American is less than ideal, but should serve as a way to start talking about how to remediate the trend.

“African-American drivers in Missouri were 66 percent more likely than white drivers to be stopped in 2013 versus 30 percent more likely in 2000,” Koster said.  “This suggests a disturbing trend, and I hope communities with similar findings will make a serious effort to identify the causes.” 

The findings show that African Americans were stopped at a rate 59 percent greater than expected based solely on their proportion of the state's driving population. What's more, once stopped, blacks were 1.89 times more likely to be searched than whites. And Hispanics were 1.87 times more likely to be searched.

Further analysis of the VSR by St. Louis Public Radio found the following patterns in the city of St. Louis in 2013.

  • Of all drivers stopped, 11.2 percent were searched. Black drivers were searched 13.22 percent of the times they were stopped. Asian drivers were searched less than 2 percent of the time they were stopped.
  • Black drivers who were stopped were searched 1.9 times more often than non-black drivers who were stopped.
  • Of all drivers who were stopped, 5.2 percent were arrested. 6.4 percent of blacks who were stopped were arrested. Less than one half of one percent of Asian drivers who were stopped were arrested.
  • Black drivers who were stopped were 2.3 times more likely to be arrested than non-black drivers who were stopped.
  • Of all searches performed on whites, 60 percent were because they consented, 23 percent were incident to arrest and 14 percent were because an officer said he smelled drugs or alcohol.
  • White drivers who were searched yielded drugs 16 percent of the time and a weapon 2 percent of the time. Black drivers who were searched yielded drugs 11 percent of the time and a weapon 3 percent of the time. Searches of Hispanic drivers found drugs 5 percent of the time and weapons 2 percent of the time.

And in St. Louis County:

  • Of all drivers stopped, 7.2 percent were searched. Hispanic drivers were searched more than 14 percent of the time they were stopped, 10.5 percent of black drivers who were stopped were searched. White drivers who were stopped, were searched 5.5 percent of the time and Asians were searched 2.2 percent of the time they were stopped.
  • Black or Hispanic drivers who were stopped were about twice as likely to be searched as all other drivers who were stopped.
  • Of all drivers stopped, 4.8 percent were arrested. 8 percent of blacks and 8.4 percent of Hispanics who were stopped were arrested.

Correction: This article was modified to reflect that the Attorney General did not blame the VSR for failing to provide enough funding to address issues of racial profiling.