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Towns say Traffic Stop Stats Skewed

Megan Lynch
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FRONTENAC, Mo. (KMOX) – Some St. Louis area police departments say state traffic stop numbers are skewed.

The analysis from the Missouri Attorney General’s office compares the race of drivers pulled over by police with the demographics of the community.

The annual report from the Attorney General shows African-American drivers are over-represented in police stops in communities including Brentwood, Des Peres and Frontenac — compared to the black population living in those towns.

Frontenac Police Chief Thomas Becker tells KMOX, the figures are distorted, because of the number of people who travel into the community. 

“We have a two mile section of US Interstate 64, we’ve got the large Plaza Frontenac Shopping Mall in our jurisdiction, so our daytime population, the demographics are greatly skewed from what our population statistics shows in the US Census.”

Becker says if you compare Frontenac’s traffic stops with County population figures, African-Americans are under-represented while whites are over-represented. 

KMOX News also discovered police departments with white and Hispanic drivers vastly over-represented in traffic stops, including Uplands Park and Pine Lawn.  We left messages asking for response.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Chris Koster says he’s concerned by the continuing trend in Missouri police traffic stops.

 “African-American drivers continue to be pulled over at far higher rates than Caucasian drivers,” says Koster, who adds, there’s huge difference.  “An African-American is 70-percent more likely to be pulled over on Missouri roadways than a white driver is.”

Koster says Hispanic and black drivers are more likely to be searched, but white drivers are more likely to be found with contraband in their cars.

And Koster tells KMOX News, high traffic towns can’t completely explain big disparities in the number of African-American drivers pulled over by police.

When asked about Frontenac’s arguments that the state figures are skewed, he responded by saying some departments need to do some soul searching.  “I think that when you see a disparity index up in the high teens, that that is a department that should be taking this data and drilling down to the individual officer level and analyzing where these disparities are coming from.”

(The disparity index compare the proportion of stops of drivers of a particular race to the proportion of the local population of that racial group.  A value of 1 represents no disparity.)

Koster does add, he plans to sit down with police departments to discuss their concerns and see what data they would like added to the report.

Click here for previous story on statewide annual traffic stop report

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