Law enforcement officers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely to stop Black drivers than White drivers last year, and 73 percent more likely to search Black drivers, according to The New York Times.
The data also confirmed longstanding complaints by activists that while Blacks were more likely to be stopped and searched than Whites, they were less likely to be found with contraband than Whites, The Times notes, citing a report released Monday by Chris Koster, the state’s attorney general. Furthermore, nearly 27 percent of Whites who were searched possessed something illegal, compared with 21 percent of Blacks, the report says.
The numbers represent the largest disparity in stops between Black and White drivers since the state began tracking records in 2000, and comes at a time of intense scrutiny of police-involved shootings, including the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen, who was shot and killed last year by a White officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Reports The New York Times:
Mr. Koster, a Democrat expected to run for governor next year, said in a statement that the data was “a starting point” for discussion on addressing racial disparities in police practices. But he asserted that the data did not necessarily prove “that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver.”…
Mr. Koster’s report showed that black motorists were 2.65 times as likely as whites to be stopped by the police in Ferguson and 2.86 times as likely to be searched. By comparison, police departments across St. Louis County, which includes Ferguson, were about twice as likely to search blacks as to search whites.
Criminologists say it’s difficult to parse the data. Scott H. Decker, a criminology professor at Arizona State University who was the lead analyst for the report, tells The Times that it was too difficult to draw conclusions on things like racial bias, because the numbers do not account for things like the racial composition of the motorists.
Kenneth J. Novak, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said it was difficult to interpret disparity data without knowing where the police were deploying their resources. When the police presence is greater in places with high proportions of African-Americans, that most likely would lead to blacks having more interactions with the police, he wrote in an email.
This is not the first time disparities were revealed in the state. In a scathing report released this year by the U.S. Department of Justice, investigators found that Blacks accounted for 85 percent of stops in Ferguson, 90 percent of tickets, and 93 percent of arrests, The Times notes.
Since criminologists are too afraid to say it, we will: The results are too great to ignore and it’s time for police across the nation to address the issue of racial disparities in traffic stops and other areas of law enforcement.
SOURCE: The New York Times | VIDEO CREDIT: NDN