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Matthew Radefeld & Dan Juengel
Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

Driving While Black: Missouri’s dismal record of racial arrests

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2024 | Criminal Law |

For the last 23 years, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office has been compiling reports that show how various police departments in the state handle traffic stops – and for 23 years in a row, the news for Black motorists hasn’t improved.

“Driving While Black” is the term that many people use to refer to the racial profiling and/or discrimination that Black individuals experience while driving. While efforts have been made to raise awareness about racial discrimination by law enforcement, there has been little to no progress in this state.

What do the statistics say about Black motorists and police encounters?

Missouri began keeping track of data related to race, traffic stops, tickets and arrests back in 2000, due to a law that was enacted in response to concerns about racial profiling by the police.

Every single year, the data indicates that Black drivers are stopped more often than drivers of other ethnicities. They’re also given more citations and arrested more often. Here are just some of the statistics from 2022 that are very telling:

  • When taking into account the share of the state’s population that is Black, Black motorists were stopped about 60% more often than they should be. Using the same standard, White motorists were stopped about 6% less often than they should be.
  • White drivers who were stopped by police for traffic errors were given a warning or simply let go after more than half the stops – with only 40% receiving tickets. Black drivers, by comparison, were given citations 58% of the time.
  • When the state’s Highway Patrol was involved, White drivers who were stopped were given tickets less than 60% of the time, and only 3.26% were arrested. In contrast, Black drivers were cited 89% of the time and nearly 7% were arrested.

Unfortunately, even these numbers don’t seem to make a dent in the awareness or attitudes of those in charge. Gladstone authorities, near Kansas City, referred to their astronomical stop rate for Blacks (which is five times that of Whites) as “meaningless” because they were mostly stopping out-of-towners. 

If you were stopped by the police and arrested in an encounter that you believe was racially motivated, it may be wisest to find out more about your legal options.