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Attorney General releases racial data in 2016 traffic stop report

Black drivers in Missouri once more made up a larger percentage of those pulled over than their driving-age population.

The Attorney General’s annual report on traffic stops in the state detailed the number of stops law enforcement made in 2016, broken down by the driver’s race. The report is designed to flag the possibility of racial profiling within police departments.

The report shows law enforcement made 1.5 million traffic stops in 2016. While black drivers made up 10.9 percent of the state’s driving-aged population, they made up 18 percent of total drivers pulled over in 2016. The “racial disparity index” divides those two numbers, which claims black drivers are pulled over at a rate 65 percent greater than expected.

You can read about the 2015 results here.

It is the 17th straight year the racial disparity index for the state indicated black drivers were pulled over at a greater rate than expected in Missouri.

The racial disparity index for black drivers in Columbia also jumped to its highest level since the Attorney General began collecting data in 2000. Black drivers made up 9.9 percent of the driving population of Columbia and 31.2 percent of the department’s traffic stops. That means black drivers were pulled over at a rate more than three times greater than expected, and four times the rate of white drivers.

Police Chief Ken Burton has long denied the existence of racial profiling at CPD, despite calls from local activists to take the traffic stop report more seriously. Burton said he would give the matter more attention last year, holding several “listening” sessions with the public on traffic stops in town.

Members of Race Matters, Friends told ABC 17 News on Thursday the report doesn’t instill any more confidence in Chief Burton’s leadership in handling racial profiling.

“It’s inadequate, it’s ineffectual,” Traci Wilson-Kleekamp said. “And the gig is up on making excuses and hiding out on these important issues.”

Columbia police spokeswoman Bryana Larimer said the department was still reviewing the Attorney General’s report, and would provide a statement and “additional materials related to the numbers” by next week.

“I don’t know what new interpretation could be coming in the next week,” Peggy Placier, a member of Race Matters, Friends, said. “[The report] speaks for itself.”

Tensions over the 2015 version of the report boiled over last July at a Columbia City Council meeting. Burton tried explaining the reasons why he doubted the report signaled any racial profiling when members of Race Matters, Friends walked out of the meeting. Wilson-Kleekamp even called for Burton’s firing over the issue. Burton later said he had a “change of heart” on the matter, and promised to dig deeper.

Wilson-Kleekamp said despite those moves, the department wouldn’t change without accepting that something might be wrong. She and Placier said CPD could use better training in dealing with minority communities.

“Community-oriented policing is a way for them to transform the department,” Wilson-Kleekamp said. “But if you’re in denial, you can’t do that.”

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