June 3, 2019
For More Information:
Jeanette Mott Oxford
Executive Director, Empower Missouri
Communications Director, Empower Missouri
On May 31st, 2019, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt released the annual Vehicle Stops Report of 2018 (VSR) as mandated by Missouri statutes. As an organization that advocates for the well-being of all Missourians, Empower Missouri uses the complete Vehicle Stops Report data set to look for situations in which People of Color are treated disproportionately.
The report, which shows data from all vehicle stops in Missouri during the 2018 calendar year, brings to light alarming trends in the way our state’s law enforcement officers interact with members of the community, especially People of Color.
The 2018 VSR shows that Black Missourians were 91% more likely to be pulled over than their white neighbors based on their respective proportions of the Missouri driving-age population in the 2010 Census. In 2017, they were 85% more likely. Not only does a driver’s race continue to play a significant role in the likelihood that they are pulled over by a police officer in Missouri, but it is getting worse each year.
“The Vehicle Stops Report shows that People of Color are being disproportionately and negatively impacted by vehicle stops in Missouri,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, Executive Director for Empower Missouri. ”It also clearly shows that actions taken by a police officer during a stop correlate to race in a way that is truly alarming.”
Once stopped, it is clear that a driver’s race is also likely to influence the decisions the officer makes as they conduct the business of the stop. For example, Blacks and Hispanics were 1.48 and 1.4 times more likely, respectively, to have their vehicle searched than whites. This is despite the fact that these groups were slightly less likely than whites to have contraband discovered during the search.
“For the eighteenth year in a row, the Missouri Attorney General’s office has released a report that shows black communities, and people of color are disproportionately stopped and searched by law enforcement,” said Sara Baker, Legislative and Policy Director for ACLU of Missouri. “A report is not enough. Actions must be taken.”
“The data should act as a red flag to law enforcement officials- without significant reform Missouri will remain a state where minority drivers are harassed and unsafe, “ Baker continued. “We call on the Missouri Legislature and Governor Parson to support the Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act to move beyond data collection to consequences for officers who engage in racial profiling.”
Karla May, State Senator from the 4th District, said, “The question remains – what is the state of Missouri willing to do about the report? We cannot continue to allow this injustice.”
“If you don’t have any teeth in that law that bans racial profiling, then you won’t get compliance,” added Republican State Rep. Shamed Dogan. “We need to get Republicans on board to recognize that it’s a crisis. We have data to prove this has been going on for two decades.”
Nimrod Chapel, Jr., President of the Missouri Conference of NAACP, said, “As you can see from the Missouri vehicle stops report from the Attorney General, statewide and locally, the number of stops as a percentage went up for People of Color. For decades, the NAACP across the state has worked with local officials in hopes of preventing African-Americans from being stopped at disproportionate rate when compared to Caucasians.”
“State and local officials have not reduce the disparity in stops between people based on skin color,” Chapel added. “So in 2017, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People supported the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP in placing a travel advisory for People of Color in and traveling to the State of Missouri. The latest data shows this was a prudent action on our part.”
Patsy Johnson, a member of Empower Missouri, said, “The Attorney General’s report showed numbers for Jefferson City that largely correlate to the information we gathered from our local listening sessions. It is clear from this report and our work that there is still a need to drastically improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community.” The report shows that Black residents in Jefferson City are 92% more likely to be pulled over than their white neighbors. Johnson continued, saying, “We also know that nearly 69% of drivers pulled over in Jefferson City were residents of the jurisdiction, which makes it difficult to believe that these numbers are in any way affected by individuals coming from out of town.”
Empower Missouri and our partner organizations look forward to continuing to work with legislators, police departments, and the public to find ways to reduce the disparities found in this report through the following methods:
- Heightened communication and engagement between our police officers and the communities they serve, such as the Listening Sessions that occurred in Jefferson City and were hosted by Empower Missouri and attended by both police officers and a multi-racial group of residents.
- Meaningful legislation to address the inherent structural problems within our criminal justice system, such as House Bill 484, the John Ashcroft Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act, sponsored by Rep. Dogan, and Senate Bill 493, sponsored by Sen. May, and providing adequate funding to the Missouri Public Defenders system.
- The development of policies that help to break down the socioeconomic barriers that disproportionately affect People of Color in our state, such as raising wages to levels that provide access to food and housing security and investment in affordable, safe and accessible housing.