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Report still shows minorities stopped more than whites


Jefferson City, MO – An annual report on racial profiling during traffic stops continues to find that black drivers are pulled over at a higher rate than white drivers, and the gap is growing.

The report, released Thursday by the attorney general's office, found black drivers were 57% more likely to be stopped than whites, and Hispanic drivers were 15% more likely to get pulled over than whites. A year earlier, blacks were 46% more likely to be stopped, and Hispanic drivers' rate was comparable to white motorists.

The report is compiled after gathering information from law enforcement agencies across the state with details of all traffic stops, including the person's race, age, gender, the reason for the stop, and if a ticket was issued. The first such report covered traffic stops in 2000.

Both black and Hispanic drivers were stopped more often than would be expected based on their share of the state's driving-age population, the report found. For example, blacks make up about 10.9 percent of the population 16 and older but 16.3% of all vehicle stops.

Both black and Hispanic drivers who faced a traffic stop also were roughly twice as likely as whites to be searched. Contraband was found on black drivers about 19% of the time, and 14% with Hispanics, compared to nearly 23% with white motorists.

Nearly 6% of traffic stops statewide in 2006 led to an arrest. Whites were arrested about 5% of the time, while blacks and Hispanics were put under arrest more than 10% of the time.

Attorney General Jay Nixon draws no conclusions about why the disparities exist, but says the data allows questions to be asked.

"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," Nixon wrote in his analysis of the report.

More vehicles overall were pulled over last year, about 1.6 million, than in 2005, the report finds.

The report included data from 635 law enforcement agencies, about 90 percent of all agencies in Missouri. It indicated that the number of agencies failing to comply with the law to report information on traffic stops fell from 32 to 19. Some agencies contract with others and hence make no stops of their own.

The list of agencies that did not submit reports was sent to Gov. Matt Blunt, who can withhold state funding from them. Last year, Blunt withheld $3,909 from nine agencies.

To read the report, click here.