by Sarah Fenske
Black drivers were significantly more likely to be stopped by police in Missouri in 2014 than white drivers, a new report from Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has found.
In fact, the state's disparity index between black and white drivers -- which describes the difference between the rate at which members of each racial group are stopped, as measured against its share of the driving-age population -- is the highest it's been since Missouri began tracking that number in 2000, the AG says.
In 2014, black drivers were 75 percent more likely than white drivers to be pulled over, according to the Attorney General's analysis of data provided by police departments across the state.
Blacks make up just 10.9 percent of Missouri's population, yet comprised 18 percent of all traffic stops, the report found. White drivers, who make up 82.76 percent of the state's population, comprised only 78.3 percent of stops. That gave black drivers a disparity index value of 1.66, while white drivers' index value was 0.95.
"A disparity index of 1 suggests that members of that group are stopped in perfect proportion with their population," the report notes. "If the disparity index is higher than 1, it indicates the group is over-represented in traffic stops compared to what one would expect given their population size."
Interestingly, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians and people of unknown race were also stopped at rates below their proportion of the driving population, the report found.
However, once they were pulled over, Hispanic drivers joined their black counterparts in being more likely to be searched than whites. Compared to white drivers, black drivers were 1.73 percent more likely to be searched; Hispanic drivers were 1.9 percent more likely to be searched.
That's true even though, on average, black and Hispanic drivers were less likely to be found with contraband, according to the study. For white drivers, contraband was found in 26.9 percent of searches; for black drivers, that was true of just 21.4 percent of searches, and for Hispanics, just 19.5 percent of searches.
"The findings continue a disturbing trend for African-American drivers in Missouri," Koster concludes in his analysis. "The disparity index for African-American drivers has increased steadily over the last fifteen years, with only slight, temporary drops three times" -- in 2004, 2010 and 2012.
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