A report from Missouri’s attorney general shows a widening gap between how Black and White drivers in the state are treated. State lawmakers are holding hearings about it, and need your input.

Mo. Attorney General’s Report Shows Widening Stop Gap 

A report from Missouri’s attorney general shows a widening gap between how Black and White drivers in the state are treated. The report released by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in May, shows in 2018 that Black drivers across the state were 91% more likely than White motorists to be pulled over by police, up from 70% more likely in 2015.

Last year’s statewide disparity rate between White and Black drivers is the highest recorded in the almost two decades since the state first began compiling data.

“For the 18th year in a row, the Missouri Attorney General’s office has released a report that shows Black communities, and people of color are disproportionately stopped and searched by law enforcement,” ACLU legislative and policy Director Sara Baker said in a statement. “A report is not enough. Actions must be taken.”

The Missouri NAACP in 2017 issued a travel advisory warning people to be careful while in Missouri because of a danger that civil rights won’t be respected, citing in part the attorney general’s annual report on disparities in police stops.

“One has to be cautious about how you interpret that,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist who analyzed the data for the attorney general’s office. “Because in the more recent years of course we’re moving further and further away from the 2010 Census, which was used as the population base. But I don’t think use of the 2010 Census alone explains that increase in disparity.”

Missouri Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Kevin Merritt in a statement said “law enforcement has no tolerance for racial bias in policing and in general is not opposed to data collection.” But he raised issues with drawing conclusions from police stops and said law enforcement officials have pushed to collect additional data on whether officers knew the race of the driver before pulling them over.

“There is much more to this issue than raw data of stops,” Merritt said. “Those who support our law enforcement officers should not blindly conclude bias exists without being part of the solution.”

“If you don’t have any teeth in that law that bans racial profiling, then you won’t get compliance,” said Republican state Rep. Shamed Dogan, of the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin. “We need to get Republicans on board to recognize that it’s a crisis. We have data to prove this has been going on for two decades.”

Missouri law allows the governor to strip state funding from police agencies that don’t comply with the state’s racial profiling law. State Budget Director Dan Haug said at least as far back as 2015, that has not occurred.

“The numbers are either constantly remaining the same or going up,” said former Springfield NAACP President and current board member Cheryl Clay. “There has been no progress whatsoever.”

Clay says her biggest concern is that there are no efforts being made by the state to do anything with that data.

– Associated Press

Missouri House Committee to Hold Hearings on Driving While Black and Civil Asset Forfeiture

Following the recent release of reports by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Special Missouri House Committee on Criminal Justice has announced public hearings to be held July 24 in St. Louis and Aug. 1 in Kansas City.

This spring, Attorney General Schmitt released his 2018 Vehicle stops Report, which showed Black drivers were 91% more likely than White motorists to be pulled over by police. That is the largest racial disparity in vehicle stops since the state began keeping records more than a decade ago.

Auditor Galloway’s report shows an increase in cash and property seized by Missouri law enforcement agencies of $9.1 million in 2018, up from $7.1 mission in 2017, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of asset forfeiture.

State Rep. Shamed Dogan, (R-Ballwin) (pictured above) who chairs the committee, says the public hearing will examine the issues of racial profiling and civil asset forfeiture. Committee members are seeking input from law enforcement, community leaders, prosecutors, elected officials and members of the public.

“If you have experienced racial profiling or had property seized through forfeiture, or know someone who has, please consider testifying about your experience,” wrote Dogan on a recent Facebook post. “The numbers released by Attorney General Schmitt and Auditor Galloway are concerning and a true call to action for our committee and our legislature. It’s imperative that we seek solutions to help better protect Missourians’ 4th Amendment rights while also upholding law enforcement’s responsibility to protect public safety,”

The first public hearing in St. Louis will take place Wed., July 24, at 9 a.m. at the St. Louis County Council chambers 41 S. Central Ave., Clayton, MO.

The Kansas City hearing will take place Thurs., Aug. 1, at 9 a.m. at the Robert J. Mohart Multi-Purpose Center, 3200 Wayne Ave., Kansas City, MO.

The Special Committee on Criminal Justice was formed during the 2019 legislative session to explore ways to reform Missouri’s criminal justice system. Dogan was selected by House Speaker Elijah Haahr to chair the committee for the 100th General Assembly.

Missouri Reps Propose Law to Reduce Bias in Policing

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) and Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) have both introduced bills in the Missouri Legislature designed to address the issue of racial disparities by Missouri-based law enforcement officials. Police agencies are already required to submit vehicle stop data to the Missouri attorney general each year. Their bills strengthen the state’s current data collection requirements, but goes further. 

Their bills:

•Formally prohibits discrimination in policing.

•Creates accountability by requiring law enforcement agencies to review their vehicle stop data yearly and report back to the community.

•Requires that officers who police unfairly face discipline, as well as counseling and training.

•Mandates that officers ask for consent to search someone in easily understood terms. Officers also must document when a person gave permission for the search. Searches can only take place when an officer has specific facts that lead them to ask a person for consent to search.

•Establishes a procedure for putting law enforcement agencies that illustrate a pattern of “significant disproportion” in its policing under review by the Missouri Attorney General.

After six years under the attorney general’s microscope, “then the attorney general has the ability — not required, but he has the ability — to take away their funding and to continue working with them,” Dogan, the only African-American Republican in the Legislature.

•Redirects revenue from fines and fees to additional training if a law enforcement agency demonstrates consistently high numbers of discriminatory stops.