Missouri's attorney general finds black drivers 91% more likely to be stopped by police

Black drivers in Missouri were 91 percent more likely than white drivers to be stopped by law enforcement last year, according to a new report from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

The report, which was released May 31, shows which drivers were pulled over by race and whether or not they lived in the area where they were stopped. This is the first time both metrics have been available to the public.

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“Our government, the shared responsibility between the citizens of our state and the elected officials, must provide all citizens the opportunity to pursue happiness and success,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote in the report.

Black people represent 10.9 percent of Missouri’s driving age population but made up 19.2 percent of all vehicle stops, according to the report.

Hispanic, Asian, American Indian and people of mixed or unknown races “were stopped at rates well below an expectation” based on their percentage of the driving age population.

“That is worrisome, because now we have a more accurate indicator of disparity because the population base is, if you will, the correct one,” University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld  told The Associated Press.

The disparities among residents of Missouri counties vary, but in areas such as St. Louis County and Blue Springs, located outside of Kansas City, black residents were more than twice as likely to be pulled over, the AP reported. 

The search rate for motorists also points to disparities between racial groups. The statewide search rate was 6.6 percent, but black and Hispanic drivers were searched at 8.93 percent and 8.44 percent, respectively. White drivers were searched at a rate of 6.04 percent.”

Missouri Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Kevin Merritt responded to the report in a statement Monday, saying “law enforcement has no tolerance for racial bias in policing.”

But, he argued that the data doesn't show whether an officer knew the race of the driver before pulling someone over.

“There is much more to this issue than raw data of stops,” Merritt said. “Those who support our law enforcement officers should not blindly conclude bias exists without being part of the solution.”

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