African American drivers were four times more likely to be pulled over by Webster Groves Police than white drivers in 2017, according to the Missouri Attorney General’s Annual Vehicle Stop Report. Upon hearing the data, Lieutenant Andy Miller of the Webster Groves PD questioned if the statistics were legitimate.
“I gotta think we would’ve heard something about it from [the Missouri Attorney General’s Office],” Miller said. “The people I’ve talked to here know nothing about it.”
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said in a statement he hoped the Annual Vehicle Stop Reports would shed light on changes that need to be made to policies in Missouri.
“I am hopeful that this year’s report will continue to foster constructive conversations about what we must do together to achieve–and protect–the rule of law in Missouri,” Hawley said.
The 2017 report showed almost 24 percent more traffic stops for black drivers in Webster Groves than for drivers of any other racial group, including whites, Asians and Hispanics.
Missouri citizens raised concerns of racial profiling by law enforcement in 2000, passing a bill requiring Missouri officers to submit an annual report to the Attorney General’s office with specific information about each stopped driver.
This information includes race, gender, age, reason for the stop and any citations or arrests made.
A ‘disparity number’ in the report shown for each race represents the number of stops in relation to that race’s proportion of the local population. A disparity number of ‘1’ depicts equal representation, numbers under ‘1’ depict under-representation and any number over ‘1’ means that race is over-represented in the number of vehicle stops made compared to their proportion within the local population.
Black people make up about six percent of the Webster Groves population, but made up about 26 percent of vehicle stops, making their disparity number 4.15.
Webster student Chorise Martin said that he drives more carefully in Webster Groves than in St. Louis City.
“When I’m out here in Webster Groves, I’m more cautious of my surroundings because I know that the Webster Groves police are more likely to pull me over than the St. Louis City police,” Martin said.
Martin said although he is cautious, he believes the police have a right to stop him since nine times out of ten he does not have correct license plates or insurance.
Despite the availability of the report and university students knowledge of the disparities, leaders in the Webster Groves community reported they had not heard of the 2017 findings.
President of the St. Louis County NAACP Esther Haywood said she thinks the problem should be handled internally by the Webster Groves police. Haywood said she too had not heard of the Attorney General’s data, and Webster Groves councilman Bud Bellomo said the disparity has not been brought up to the council.
“It should be something that they ought to be able to solve in a meeting,” Haywood said.
The disparity index for black drivers in Webster Groves has never been below the 2006 report of 1.76.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office currently has no programs or repercussions for departments that do not have ‘constructive conversations,’ or visible improvements of their statistics.