On August 28th, all the way back in the year 2000, the Missouri legislature decided to settle the argument once and for all over whether or not racist cops were pulling over non-white drivers just for the "crime" of being non-white and driving a car. Every year since 590.650 RSMo (2000) was enacted, every police agency in Missouri that makes even one traffic stop during the year has to submit a simple little form for every traffic stop to the Missouri Attorney General's office: race and ethnicity of the driver, whether or not they were searched, whether or not contraband was found, whether or not the driver was arrested. Back in 2003, they revised the form slightly. So this year's report, the 2007 Missouri Racial Profiling Report, gives us five consecutive years of data measured by the exact same methodology, a really good basis for comparison. Let's look at some numbers from those years, shall we?
The disparity index measures how much more or less likely someone is to be pulled over, by race. That is to say, it compares the number of them who were pulled over, to the number of them who would have been pulled over if all ethnic groups had been pulled over at the same rate. For example, where it says that whites in 2007 were -5% disparity, it means that 5% fewer whites were pulled over than statistics would suggest if everybody were pulled over at equal rates.
Furthermore, of those who were pulled over, the search rate measures, in actual percent, what percentage of cars driven by someone of that ethnic group were searched by police. The form does say why the vehicle was searched: because the cops saw contraband in plain sight, because they were arresting the driver anyway and performed a search as part of the arrest, a "Terry stop" search, or whatever; I don't have those numbers from the executive summary online, sorry; apparently only the Attorney General's office has them?
Ah, but you might well suggest, maybe the cops have a reason to search black-driven and brown-driven cars more often than white-driven cars, because the cops know that black-driven cars and brown-driven cars are twice as likely to be carrying contraband. That seems unlikely; I would predict that the numbers would be roughly identical, since the gold-standard SAMHSA study insists that white, black, and brown Americans use illegal drugs at roughly the same rate, and would therefore probably be carrying contraband in their cars roughly equally often. But, why speculate? We have the numbers to compare. The contraband hit rate measures, of the cars that were searched, what percentage of the searches actually found illegal weapons, illegal drugs, stolen merchandise, or other evidence of a crime:
Huh. Looks to me like the cops are searching the wrong cars. They're searching roughly twice as many cars (per capita) driven by black or brown drivers, when the white cars they search turn out to be roughly half again as likely to have crime evidence in them. Consistently. For five years in a row.
After five years, with the reports having been available year after year after year, there can not be a police officer in Missouri who doesn't know that if he thought he was more likely to find drugs or illegal weapons in cars driven by non-whites, that's bigotry, not fact. In the face of that repeated demonstration, these numbers only make sense, so far as I can tell, if what you are seeing measured in the search and contraband rates above is nothing more nor less than the "Terry stop" effect: the fact that there are some perceptibly large number of cops all over Missouri who'd like to unconstitutionally search every vehicle they see for contraband without the niceties of a warrant, but who know that juries will laugh at them if they say they felt threatened by all but the most threatening of white drivers.
And the roughly 50% higher rate of getting pulled over if you're black than if you're any other ethnic group, including Hispanic, a rate that got consistently worse over time? That's racism, pure and simple. Somebody from the US Justice Department should be going over these reports jurisdiction by jurisdiction, identifying the worst offenders, and putting every cop in those jurisdictions under a microscope until they figure out who the bad apples are and yank their peace officer licenses (at the very, very least). This report's been being compiled, these departments have known they were under observation, for longer than I've shown above; the actual raw data goes all the way back seven years. Seven years after being put on notice, and they're still pulling over tens of thousands of black drivers per year for driving in Missouri while black? That's flatly inexcusable.
P.S. Let me remind you that the statistics in this journal entry were compiled for the state with the lowest per-capita statistical disparity in the nation between black incarcerations for drugs and white incarcerations for drugs. (Refer back to my journal entry for May 19th.) I despair to think what the search and contraband numbers by race look like across the river, in the second-worst state, or for that matter anywhere else.