Black drivers in Ferguson, Mo., the suburb that experienced violent protests after the shooting death of Michael Brown, were four times as likely last year to be stopped by police than white drivers, a state report shows.
Statewide, black drivers were 75% more likely to be subjected to a motor vehicle stop than their white counterparts, and statistics suggest an increasingly disproportionate number of blacks have been stopped in the state since 2000, an annual report released Monday by Atty. Gen. Chris Koster shows.
The annual report was the first to be published after the shooting death of Brown last year touched off serious unrest and gave rise to accusations of institutional racism among police in St. Louis County.
According to the state data, the likelihood of black drivers in Ferguson being pulled over at a far higher rate than white drivers has been the case for at least a decade, according to the data tracked since 2000.
Of those drivers stopped in Ferguson in 2014, 82% were black, whereas black residents make up 63% of the population in the suburb.
In St. Louis city, 66% of the drivers stopped by police last year were black. Only 45% of St. Louis' driving-age residents are black.
Despite the disproportionate stops of black residents, police data indicated that officers were more likely to find contraband, either a weapon or drugs, in the possession of white motorists.
"While statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver this compilation and analysis of data provides law enforcement, legislators, and the public a starting point as they consider improvements to process and changes to policy to address these issues," Koster said in a statement.
A spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department said agency officials would not be available for comment until after they had read the report. A spokesman for the city police department said Chief Sam Dotson was not available Monday afternoon, and a spokesman for the city of Ferguson declined to comment on the report.
State law enforcement officials began collecting data on motor vehicle stops and race in 2000 in response to concerns about racial profiling. Blacks were 31% more likely to be stopped by police than whites in 2000, compared with the 75% likelihood in last year's records.
The police department, which drew national scorn for its handling of protests after Brown's death, was soundly rebuked by the Department of Justice after a federal inquiry found the agency engaged in a pattern of racial bias when issuing citations for minor infractions.
The federal investigation turned up a series of racist emails and led to the firing of several officers. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, a municipal judge and the city manager also resigned shortly after the Department of Justice released its findings.
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