Racial profiling data released for '07

Thursday, July 3, 2008

For the eighth year in a row, the Barry County Sheriff's Department and all six area police departments have submitted traffic stop data for the Missouri Attorney General's 2007 Missouri Vehicle Stops annual report.

The report collects data from law enforcement agencies throughout the state and summarizes it to track racial profiling trends. The reporting of this data is mandated under a state law that was enacted in August of 2000 to address allegations of racial profiling by law enforcement officials.

Racial profiling is defined as the inappropriate use of race by law enforcement when making a decision to stop, search or arrest a motorist. The law allows the governor to withhold state funds from any agency that doesn't comply with the law by submitting traffic stop data to the Attorney General's office by the March 1 deadline each year.

In 2007, law enforcement agencies statewide recorded a total of 1,564,452 vehicle stops, which resulted in 123,808 searches and 89,537 arrests. The overall number of stops decreased in 2007 after a significant increase was reported in 2006.

According to an analysis of the traffic stop data by Attorney General Jay Nixon, the disparity index for African-American drivers continues to be of concern. The index in 2007 rose from 1.49 in 2006 to 1.58 in 2007.

The disparity index refers to a racial or ethnic group's proportion of total vehicle stops as compared to its proportion of driving-age population. Values above 1 indicate over-representation.

African Americans represent 10.7 percent of Missouri's population yet account for 16.9 percent of all vehicle stops. Whites comprise 84 percent of the state's population and accounted for 79.3 percent of the traffic stops.

The disparity rate for Hispanics in 2007 dropped from 1.09 in 2006 to 1.0 in 2007.

"One of the best uses of these reports is as a springboard for dialogue and communication between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve," wrote Nixon in his annual traffic data analysis report. "It is vital that Missouri law enforcement agencies continue to review the rates of stops and searches.

"Statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity," added Nixon. "Missouri's law enforcement members continue to do commendable work in the face of many challenges. I appreciate their efforts and willingness to compile the information for these annual reports."

Barry County data

The number of traffic stops made by the Barry County Sheriff's Department increased by 13 percent in 2007. Deputies reported making 351 stops in 2007 as compared to 308 in 2006. Of those stops, 306 drivers were white, two were black, 30 were Hispanic, nine were Asian and two were American Indian.

These stops resulted in 48 searches, which is 13 more than the previous year. The search rate increased from 11.36 in 2006 to 13.68 in 2007.

Hispanic drivers were searched more frequently than white drivers. In 2007, 16.67 percent of Hispanic drivers involved in traffic stops were searched as compared to 14.05 of white drivers. None of the Asian, black or American Indian drivers were subject to a search.

In Barry County, black drivers had the largest disparity index of 2.18. That index actually decreased from 2006 when it stood at 2.56. The disparity index for white drivers was 0.97, and for Hispanic drivers, it stood at 1.46.

Of the 351 traffic stops conducted by Barry County sheriff's deputies in 2007, 44 resulted in the issuance of a citation and 306 resulted in a warning.

These traffic stops produced 25 arrests, which is up slightly from the 18 reported in 2006. Of those arrested last year, 21 were white, three were Hispanic and one was Asian.

Arrests were made on the following charges: 25, outstanding warrants; one, drug violation; one, traffic violation; four, driving while intoxicated/blood alcohol content; and one, property offense.

A total of 237 of the drivers stopped by county deputies were male as compared to 114 female drivers. More than half of the stops (231) involved drivers age 18 to 29. The breakdown for other age groups in 2007 was: 96, age 17 and under; 19, age 30 to 39; and five, age 40 and over.

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