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The Missouri Attorney General Office released the 2021 traffic stop report. 

The Missouri Attorney General’s office has released their report on traffic stops in Missouri in 2021, showing overall statewide Black drivers are stopped more than any other race. 

In our area, data shows a disproportionate amount of White drivers being stopped by police in the city of Branson. Stone and Taney county statistics which appear to show higher rates of Blacks being stopped is being called into question because of a lower Black population within the counties.

The report shows the “disparity index” of each department. This index shows the proportion of the number of traffic stops overall divided by the proportion of a race in a community’s population. This means an index number of 1 or under is ideal and anything over 1 is considered high based on comparing stops to the population of each race. 

The Branson Police Department’s data showed while White drivers had a disparity index of 1.118, indicating an over-representation of stopped white drivers. When limited to stops of just Branson residents, the index is still over the average, at 1.079 of all stops. 

Overall, all other races in Branson stops were well below the number for White residents, with Blacks returning a .627 index, Hispanics at .614, Native Americans at .249, and Asians .164. The index for Whites in 2021 is higher than 2020 (1.08 to 1.12), while the index for Blacks is significantly lower (.85 to .63) and Hispanics slightly lower (.62 to .61.)

The stop rate, which is calculated by the number of stops divided by the population of each race multiplied by 100, showed Whites at 20.89, Blacks at 11.71, and Hispanics at 11.47.

The report also showed the BPD gave significantly more warnings to drivers across all racial lines than any other action. Out of 1,762 total stops for the year, 1,245 of those stops resulted in warnings from officers. Only 450 citations were given out in 2021, 404 of them to White drivers. The top cause of traffic stops were moving violations.

Male drivers were stopped 63% of the time, and the majority of stopped drivers were either between 18-29 (575 drivers) or over 40 (592 drivers.)

While the Branson stop rate, contraband “hit” rate, and citation rate were higher for White drivers, there was one statistically significant difference in the search rate: Whites were searched at a 7.69 rate while Blacks were searched at a 14.1 rate. 

The data for the Taney County Sheriff’s Office showed higher rates for Black drivers on the disparity index and in other categories compared to other races, however the numbers also showed a significantly lower number of Black drivers overall. Deputies reported 2,109 overall stops in 2021, with only 91 of those stops of Black drivers.

The disparity index for all traffic stops shows a 1.008 index for White drivers stopped by Taney county deputies compared to 2.317 for Black drivers. (Asian drivers were .964, Hispanic .662, and Native American .342.) However, when limited to just Taney County residents, the numbers are much closer, with White drivers at a 1.058 index compared to 1.061 for Black drivers, indicating the majority of black drivers stopped overall are not local residents.

Historically, the disparity index for Black drivers in Taney County has been significantly higher than White drivers. The last time both White and Black drivers were under a 1 index was 2007, when Whites were at .98 and Blacks at .82. Since then, Black drivers have always been higher than White drivers, with the index for White drivers peaking at 1.06 in 2011. Black drivers have not been below a 2 since 2010, and reached a high of 4.42 in 2013.

The report showed Taney County deputies also gave an overwhelming majority of warnings to drivers overall, with 1,699 warnings given out in 2,109 overall stops. Of those warnings, 1,546 were given to White drivers. White drivers received 229 of the 261 citations issued by deputies.

Taney County Sheriff Brad Daniels pointed to the low overall number of Black residents versus visitors and the impact on how it can drive up the numbers.

“The percentage is based on the local population where there is a low number of Black residents,” Daniels said. “Many of the traffic stops are done on the main roads coming into the county which are traveled by visitors.”

Stone County’s numbers show similar racial disparities to Taney County, however Stone County also reported a significantly lower number of Black drivers stopped in 2021.

Out of 361 overall traffic stops in 2021, 343 of the drivers were White, with only 10 Black drivers stopped by Stone County deputies.

With Stone County’s 2020 population report showing only .19% of the county’s residents were Black, the stop rate of Black drivers returns at a 19.23 rate compared to 1.31 for White drivers, who make up 95.44% of the county’s population. 

This data puts the county’s disparity index for White drivers at .996, while Black drivers are reported at 14.574, marking the sixth time in the last six years the county has been in double digits on the disparity index.

However, the data also shows no black drivers had their vehicles searched, and no black drivers were arrested by the department. Only one Hispanic driver out of seven stopped during 2021 had their vehicle searched, with one arrest on an outstanding warrant.

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader had similar thoughts as Sheriff Daniels in  the low number of Black residents skews the overall data and doesn’t give an accurate reflection of area law enforcement.

“Even when I was in Branson West, your disparity index is skewed because we don’t have a large population of African Americans in Stone County,” Rader said. “So any stop is going to throw that index off-kilter. It’s not like St. Louis where there’s a larger population. So those numbers are always going to be off. [The index] showed as off when I was in Branson West, and for the county as a whole. That traffic data isn’t fair and accurate.”

Statewide, while Black residents make up 11% of the state population, 18% of traffic stops were of black drivers. However, some police supporting groups are making similar statements to Sheriff Daniels regarding other factors impacting the overall numbers. The Ethical Society of Police in St. Louis gave an example, stating due to elected officials wanting more patrols in areas with more black residents in north St. Louis, those extra stops help skew the overall state numbers to make it appear the problem is more pronounced than in general.

“The numbers show the disparity because the city’s elected officials request additional traffic enforcement in north St. Louis, which is predominantly black, because of speeding and careless or reckless driving,” the ESOP said in a statement published to Facebook.

The overall 2021 Traffic Stops report and a detailed report breaking down every reporting police department in the state is available in the documents section of the state Attorney General’s website, ago.mo.gov.

(1) comment

Branson4fun

Let me commend our local law enforcement for a job well done!

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