Law enforcement agencies have high racial disparity indexes for traffic stops

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COLUMBIA -A report that looks at law enforcement date on traffic stops, including the driver's race, was released Thursday by the attorney generals office.

The 2016 Vehicle Stops Executive Summary contains data from 600 law enforcement agencies and offices.

In stops involving the Columbia Police Department, data shows Blacks were searched and arrested at a rate nearly double the state average.

The disparity index, which looks at the proportion of stops for one ethnic group divided by the proportion of that group to the population, was also nearly double for the Columbia Police Department compared to the state average.

A disparity index of one would mean the proportion was equal, anything over one suggests a an ethnic group is being disproportionately affected. The disparity index for CPD is 3.13 for Blacks compared to 1.65 statewide. 

The Columbia Police Department said they are currently reviewing the report and plan to issue a statement about the numbers by early next week. 

For the Boone County Sheriff's Department, the disparity rate was 3.01. The agency also saw higher than average numbers with arrests and search rates for Blacks.

The Jefferson City Police Department saw a disparity rate of 1.88. It's search and arrest rates were also nearly double the state average for stops involving Blacks.

"We strive every day to build constructive lines of communication within our community and to work together with all neighborhoods to create a safe and enjoyable city in which to live," Jefferson City Chief of Police Roger Schroeder. 

"We hope this subject will promote dialogue and strengthen relationships with all community members," Schroeder said. 

In all three agencies, the disparity index was below one for Whites, Hispanics and Asians.

In addition to the driver's race, the annual report also shows data on what the driver was pulled over for, if they were searched and whether they were arrested.

In Columbia, Blacks account for about 10 percent of the population, according to the report. Black drivers were involved in nearly half of all stops for equipment violations, 40 percent of stops for license violations, 41 percent stops for investigative purposes and 25 percent of stops for moving violations made by the Columbia Police Department.

Attorney General Josh Hawley said one flaw in the data is that it only compares the number of people from a particular racial or ethnic group involved in traffic stops to the number of persons in that group who live in a jurisdiction. He said he is issuing new guidelines to collect information about whether stopped individuals reside within the law enforcement agency's jurisdiction.

Hawley said the report is necessary to shine a spotlight on possible racial profiling, saying profiling threatens the fairness and impartiality of the rule of law and "badly undermines the vital trust between everyday citizens and the law enforcement officers who risk their lives to protect them."

He said he hopes the data will help move the public and law enforcement agencies "toward a constructive conversation about what we must do together to better achieve - and protect the rule of law."