The Barry and Lawrence County Sheriff's Departments and all the municipal police departments located in the bi-county area complied with state law and submitted traffic stop data for the Missouri Attorney General's 2008 Missouri Vehicle Stops annual report.
Since 2000, law enforcement agencies have been mandated to submit traffic stop data to the Attorney General's Office on an annual basis. The information is summarized to track racial profiling trends across the state. 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 2008 report, which was released last month, includes data about more than 1.6 million traffic stops conducted by 639 law enforcement agencies. The 1,633,610 vehicle stops that were made statewide resulted in 128,652 searches and 92,945 arrests. The overall number of stops increased in 2008 from the 1,564,452 conducted in 2007.
According to an analysis of the report by Attorney General Chris Koster, the disparity index for African-Americans continues to be of "significant concern." The disparity index for African-American drivers increased slightly from 1.58 in 2007 to 1.59 in 2008.
At the same time, the disparity index for Hispanic drivers decreased from 1.0 in 2007 to .95 in 2008. Both African-American drivers and Hispanic drivers continue to have search rates significantly higher than white drivers.
The disparity index refers to a racial or ethnic group's proportion of total vehicle stops as compared to its porportion of the driving-age population. Values above 1 indicate over-representation.
"Statistical disporportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver," stated Koster in his analysis. "The compilation and analysis of data, however, does help both law enforcement and the community with a starting point for dialogue to appreciate each other's perspetives and arrive at common ground."
The number of traffic stops made by the Barry County Sheriff's Department declined dramatically in 2008. Deputies reported making 71 traffic stops in 2008 as compared to 351 in 2007. This drop constitutes an almost 79 percent decrease in traffic stops during the past year.
Of the stops made by Barry County deputies, 71 of the drivers were white, four were Hispanic and one was Asian.
Hispanic drivers were stopped less frequently and searched less frequently than white drivers, which is a change from last year's traffic stop data. None of the Hispanic drivers who were stopped were searched while 12.12 of the white drivers were subjected to a search.
These stops resulted in eight searches for a search rate of 11.27, which is considerably less than last year's search rate of 13.68.
The traffic stops made by Barry County officers in 2008 resulted in eight searches, six arrests and the issuance of 15 citations and 40 warnings.
The six arrests are down significantly from the 25 arrests reported in 2007. All the subjects that were arrested were white.
Arrests were made on the following charges: four outstanding warrants, one traffic violation; and one driving while intoxicated.
Barry County officers stopped 47 male drivers and 24 female drivers. A little more than a third (27) of the stops involved drivers age 18 to 29. The breakdown for other age groups in 2008 was: seven, age 17 and under; 20, age 30 to 39; and 17, age 40 and over.
Lawrence County Sheriff's Department
Lawrence County deputies made 1,252 traffic stops during 2008 according to the most recent profiling data. That number reflects a 58 percent increase over the 2007 traffic stop total of 793.
Of the 1,252 drivers stopped, 1,189 were white, 24 were black, 30 were Hispanic and three were Asian. These stops resulted in 63 searches, which is only 10 more than last year, and the search percentage decreased from 6.68 percent in 2007 to 5.03 in 2008.
Hispanic drivers were searched more frequently than white and black drivers. In 2008, 16.67 percent of Hispanic drivers involved in traffic stops were searched as compared to 4.71 percent of white drivers and 4.17 percent of black drivers.
In Lawrence County, black drivers had the largest disparity index of 5.92. The disparity index for white drivers was 1.02, the disparity index for Hispanic drivers as 0.66 and the disparity index for Asian drivers was 0.36.
Of the 1,252 traffic stops made by Lawrence County officers, 308 resulted in citations and 510 resulted in warnings being given.
The traffic stops produced 42 arrests. Of those arrested as a result of traffic stops last year, 39 were white, one was black and five were Hispanic.
Arrests were made on the following charges: 13 outstanding warrants; three drug violations; one, resisting arrest; two, offenses against persons; 10 traffic violations; 21 driving while intoxicated; and one property offense.
Lawrence County deputies stopped 873 male drivers as compared to 379 femald drivers in 2008. Of those stopped, 454 were in the 18-to-29 age group and 434 were age 40 and over. A total of 82 drivers under the age of 17 were stopped, and 282 drivers age 30 to 39.
Traffic stop data for all participating law enforcement agencies can be accessed for the past nine years years on Attorney General Chris Koster's website at www.ago.mo.gov.