Missouri report: Blacks 85 percent more likely to be stopped - KCTV5 News

Missouri report: Blacks 85 percent more likely to be stopped

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Attorney General Josh Hawley on Friday released his office's annual Vehicle Stops Report. (AP) Attorney General Josh Hawley on Friday released his office's annual Vehicle Stops Report. (AP)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

Nearly four years after protests in Ferguson raised concerns about racial profiling of blacks in Missouri, a report from the state attorney general shows that African-American drivers are 85 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites - the highest percentage in the 18 years the state has compiled data.

Attorney General Josh Hawley on Friday released his office's annual Vehicle Stops Report. The "disparity index" comparing traffic stops among races showed a jump from last year, when blacks were 75 percent more likely than whites to be stopped. Until now, last year's percentage had been the highest since the reports began in 2000.

"The Vehicle Stops Report reiterates Missourians’ commitment to the rule of law,” Hawley said. “The data contained in the Report allows a constructive conversation about the fair and impartial administration of justice. In the coming months, my Office will work with law enforcement and community groups to ensure that the regulations governing this data collection are clear and effective. We look forward to working with stakeholders throughout the state on this worthy endeavor."

The Kansas City Police Department performed better than the state average, but the data shows black drivers are pulled over more. And once that happens, drivers are ticketed 74 percent of the time.

Black drivers in Kansas City are ticketed at a slightly higher rate than white drivers.

The racial profiling data shows black drivers are pulled over almost four times more than average by Independence, Smithville and Gladstone police departments.

The Gladstone Police Department issued a letter to KCTV5 News in response to state racial profiling report. Police Chief Michael Hasty says the numbers don't tell the whole story. He says it's about who drives through Gladstone not who lives there and the state doesn't factor that in.

The report analyzes more than just stops. It also looks at searched and when things are found.

Blue Springs and Belton police pull black drivers over more often compared to the rest of the population. They also search them more often. And in the end, find less contraband.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri Highway Patrol showed almost no disparity rates for who they pulled over.

Kansas City police say numbers can be misleading, and it’s not as black and white as it seems.

Police departments send patrols out based on crime data, and that’s not racism that’s solid police strategy and geography.

Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith points out in his recent blog post that if officers weren’t in those zones patrolling, they’d be slammed for that too.

A copy of the report can be viewed here.

John Gaskin, spokesman for the St. Louis County chapter of the NAACP, said the numbers are shocking.

"Quite frankly, it's really deplorable," Gaskin said. "It's why we've ended up in a situation where people are talking about travel advisories and African-American groups are less likely to come and do business in our state."

Last July, the national NAACP issued a travel advisory for Missouri, citing last year's vehicle stop data and other racial concerns in the state.

Police treatment of blacks in Missouri was scrutinized after Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, was fatally shot by a white officer on Aug. 9, 2014. The shooting and decisions not to charge the officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, resulted in months of often violent protests and was a catalyst for the national Black Lives Matter movement.

The shooting also prompted a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. A Justice Department report released in March 2015 cited racial bias and profiling in Ferguson's policing, and a profit-driven municipal court system that frequently targeted black residents.

The attorney general's report found that Ferguson's disparity index was lower than the statewide average even though 88 percent of drivers stopped in Ferguson, and 85 percent of those arrested, were black. That's because two-thirds of Ferguson's 21,000 residents are African-American.

The statewide report, based on data self-reported by police agencies, found that Hispanics, Asians, American Indians and people of mixed or unknown races were stopped statewide at rates below their proportion of the driving-age population.

Richard Rosenfeld, a University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist who analyzed the data for the attorney general's office, said the report does offer evidence that police are becoming more selective in their traffic stops. The total number of stops has declined in recent years, and a higher percentage of stops are resulting in confiscation of weapons, drugs and other contraband.

"That's all to the good," Rosenfeld said. "We want the police to make quote, unquote, 'good searches,' that is, searches that produce contraband."

White motorists were less likely to be searched than blacks, Hispanics and American Indians, but more likely to be caught with contraband. The report also found that 7.1 percent of Hispanics and 6.6 percent of blacks were arrested after stops, compared to 4.2 percent of whites.

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