Report: Black drivers much more likely to be stopped than white drivers

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COLUMBIA – The 2015 racial disparity vehicle-stop report released Wednesday by the attorney general shows Missouri police stop African American drivers disproportionately.

The disparity index measures the number of times members of a particular group are stopped compared to that group’s share of the total driving-age population.

A disparity index of 1 means group members are stopped proportionally with their population. An index higher than 1 indicates a group is over-represented.

The black population in Missouri has a statewide disparity index of 1.61. This is a decrease from 2014’s index of 1.66, but a large increase from 2000 (1.27), when the data was first collected

Comparing the statewide indexes of black (1.61) and white (.95) drivers shows black drivers had a 69 percent higher disparity index, meaning they were more likely to be stopped by police.

The Columbia Police Department’s index is nearly twice as high as the state average. With an index of 2.97, black drivers are nearly three times more likely to be pulled over in Columbia than white drivers, with an index of .82.

Latisha Stroer, CPD's public information officer, said the raw numbers can seem alarming, but really do not mean too much by themselves.

“You have to break those numbers down to where the calls for service are taking our officers,” she said. “Where we are having more crime then dictates more officers in that area and more traffic stops.”

Stroer said the numbers do not show a racial profiling problem in Columbia.  

“What it does say is that maybe we need to look to see if there are any policy changes that need to be in effect,” she said.

Dale Roberts, the executive director for the Columbia Police Officer’s Association, said: “No one is above the law and our officers’ consideration in conducting traffic stops is in the violation committed by that driver at that time.”

Attorney General Chris Koster said the statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making stops based on race or ethnicity.

“This compilation and analysis of data provides law enforcement, legislators, and the public a starting point as they consider improvements to process and changes to policy to address these issues," he said.

Stroer said CPD is working to address the disparity in Columbia. It has community outreach teams in areas of high calls for service to try to work with the community to lessen the number of calls, which would create a lower police presence in those areas.wo