In June 2021, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office released data from its annual Vehicle Stops Report, which showed in 2020 black drivers were about 71% more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers in Missouri. The Attorney’s General Office has been collecting data on vehicle stops since 2000. Over the past several years, the likelihood of an African-American drivers being pulled over has consistently increased. In 2015, African-American drivers were also about 70% more likely to be pulled over, and by 2021 that number has remained the same. The disparity is recognized each year the report is published.
Vehicle stops are overwhelmingly the initial mode of contact with law enforcement for most Missourians. The interaction between the officer and the individual can often determine whether that person would be allowed to proceed about their day, or if that officer will conduct more investigatory searches of this individual, if necessary. In Missouri, African-American drivers are almost 25% more likely to be arrested as a result of a vehicle stop than white drivers.
In the nearly two decades since the data has been collected, there has been no statewide effort to adjust practices to curve the disparity. This has to change! And, we can start by advocating for Missouri policymakers to pass criminal justice laws to address the current practices that have allowed the disparity to be widely known for the past 20 years. One solution is: to end police practices allowing departments to collect fines for local governments. Perhaps, the state can place a ban on officers from pulling drivers over for a broken taillight or failure to signal.
As we move forward, we need to present tangible ideas to achieve equity in traffic stops in Missouri. I believe in the future we should set statewide goals each year aimed at achieving a decline in the traffic stops. If we don’t, then we will never change the outcome of racial disparities in traffic stops.
You can help us make this change! Join our Criminal Justice Coalition as we work to find long-term solutions that dramatically reduce bias in policing, ensure that citizens’ rights are protected in all interactions with law enforcement, and ensure that police officers are held accountable for inappropriate use of force or other violations of citizen rights.
Criminal Justice Policy Manager