Missouri Report Finds Police More Likely to Stop Black Motorists Than Whites

Law Firm Newswire



St. Peters, MO, (Law Firm Newswire) July 10, 2015 – Attorney general’s findings show greater disparity in 2014 than 2013 and largest in 15 years.

On June 1, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office released its annual report, and its most prominent finding was the fact that in 2014 black motorists were 75 percent more likely than whites to be stopped by police. That figure is not only an increase from the previous year but also the highest since the state began recording such data in 2000, when the statistical disparity came in at 31 percent.

Koster’s office cautioned that the numbers did not provide an easy explanation for the disparity, stating that they “did not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on perceived race or ethnicity of the driver.” Nonetheless, it added, “this compilation and analysis of data provides law enforcement, legislators and the public a starting point as they consider improvements to the process and changes to policy to address these issues.”

Koster’s report also found that across Missouri, nine percent of blacks stopped were also searched, compared to 5.2 percent of whites. Hispanics were less likely to be pulled over than either blacks or whites, but when they were stopped 9.9 percent of them were searched.

In response to the report’s findings, at least eight civil rights advocacy groups have called upon Koster to meet with them in order to discuss its relevance. That call came in the wake of a “statewide summit” on fair policing that a coalition of civil rights groups scheduled the day after the report’s release in Clayton.

“There has already been a tense atmosphere concerning relations between the public and police in the St. Louis metro area since the shooting of Michael Brown in August in Ferguson,” said Charles James, a prominent criminal defense attorney in St. Peters. “At the very least, the attorney general’s report will reinforce the mistrust that many people in Missouri, especially blacks and other minorities, have of the police.”

The attorney general’s report was not the only recent study that directed less than flattering attention on police practices. In March, a scathing report from the Justice Department focused on traffic stop statistics and stated that the actions of police in Ferguson and that city’s courts disproportionately harmed African Americans.

Koster’s office also compiles a “disparity index,” which compares the race of motorists stopped to the race of driving-age residents of each jurisdiction in the state. It found that while blacks constituted 10.9 percent of the driving population in Missouri last year, they accounted for about 18.1 percent of the stops.

The index, however, is based on census figures from 2010 and does not account for the influx of drivers from other communities or the possibility that an officer may not know a driver’s race until after stopping him or her. Indeed, a recent St. Louis County police report found that officers there were aware of the driver’s race before stopping them only 12 percent of the time.

“While mitigating factors may have to be acknowledged in order to get a more accurate interpretation of the attorney general’s data, the wide disparities shown remain troubling, especially those concerning searches,” James said. “In any case, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to help protect the rights and interests of anyone who feels that they have been wrongly accused by the police.”

Learn more at http://www.jameslawgroup.net/. James Law Group, LLC 14 Richmond Center Court St. Peters, MO 63376 Phone: 636.397.2411 Toll Free: 800.229.7112