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Hispanics Stopped Less Than White Drivers — Searched More

Megan Lynch
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) – The latest report on Missouri traffic stops shows hispanics were less likely to be pulled over than white drivers — yet hispanic drivers were more than twice as likely to be searched.

This is the 11th year the Missouri Attorney General has compared the number of police stops with population statistics.

African-American drivers are still pulled over at a higher rate than they are represented in the population, although the percentage has dropped slightly.

When searched by police, white drivers are more likely to be found with contraband than African-American or Hispanic drivers.

Here’s more on the report from Attorney General Chris Koster’s office:

The 2010 report contains analysis on more than 1.6 million stops by 630 law enforcement agencies, including racial and ethnic information about drivers who were stopped.  

“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,” Koster said.  “It is vital that Missouri law enforcement agencies continue to review the rates of stops and searches and to continue their outreach efforts.”

The Attorney General reiterated that the disparity index for any community is not conclusive evidence of racial profiling.

The “disparity indexes” compare the proportion of stops for drivers of a particular race or ethnicity to the proportion of state or local population of that racial or ethnic group. A value of “1” represents no disparity; values over “1” indicate over-representation, while values under “1” indicate under-representation.

Koster said in 2010 the statewide African-American disparity index was 1.61, down slightly from the 2009 rate of 1.62.   This is the second time since data collection began that the disparity index for African-American drivers has decreased – the other being a decrease from 1.36 in 2003 to 1.34 in 2004.

The report shows the rate (disparity index) at which Hispanics were stopped decreased in 2010 to .78, compared to .81 in 2009, a rate lower than that of white drivers.  However, search rates (the rates at which drivers of a given race are searched subsequent to a traffic stop) for both Hispanic and African-American drivers continue to be higher than for whites.  Hispanic drivers were 2.13 times more likely than white drivers to be searched.  African-Americans were 1.86 times more likely to be searched when stopped than whites. 

Despite the elevated search rates, Hispanics were less likely than white drivers to be found with contraband subsequent to being searched.  While the “contraband hit rate” for whites was 24.5 percent, the percentage of Hispanics searched and found to have contraband was 14.4 percent.   The “contraband hit rate” for African-American drivers was 17.5 percent.

Koster thanked and commended law enforcement agencies for their willingness to compile information for the report.  He noted that 98.3 percent of agencies submitted information.  Twenty-four agencies did not respond in 2010, an increase over the 13 departments that failed to report in 2009.  The Attorney General’s office will submit the names of those agencies that did not respond to the Governor, as required by law.

Koster noted that the report contains information on vehicle stops from 630 law enforcement agencies, so each individual community can examine its own data and situation.  For example, it is helpful to compare departments of a similar size or from similar geographic areas.  Additionally, factors such as crime patterns or the existence of an interstate highway in a given region may affect data samples.  Koster noted that general statewide trends do not necessarily reflect trends for individual departments, which should be considered on an individual basis.

Click here for the full report plus data for individual law enforcement agencies

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