The Missouri Coalition for Fair Policing is calling on Attorney General Josh Hawley, R, to take steps to reduce the rate at which black drivers are pulled over compared to white drivers. An annual report compiled by the Attorney General’s Office shows black drivers are 85% more likely than their white counterparts to get stopped by law enforcement. This figure represents the highest racial gap in the report’s 18 years in existence.

Nimrod Chapel, President of Missouri NAACP

During a press conference today in Jefferson City, Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel says the status quo is unacceptable and a comprehensive plan must be developed by Hawley.

“We’ve got to stop it. Today, I think it’s important to look at the attorney general and see what’s been done to change the data that’s been collected through the vehicle stops report. Not only to improve the data that we’ve collected, but more importantly, to ensure that the officers that are out there on the street have a reliable tool so that when we come back and look at the analysis as we are now, we can be certain of what we see,” Chapel says. “At this point, there is no plan – at least not one that’s been articulated to anyone outside of his office or that I’m aware of. So, I think he should start.”

Chapel says some departments have tried different things to address the racial gaps outlined in the report but he says the tactics do not seem to be working.

Don Love with Empower Missouri says one part of an overall plan could include requiring each Missouri law enforcement agency to offer surveys. He points to a KU study conducted in the Kansas City area.

“They interviewed 3,000 drivers and officers. They found black drivers overwhelmingly reported being stopped for minor violations, white drivers reported being stopped for serious violations,” Love says.

Don Love – co-chair Human Rights Task Force at Empower Missouri (photo courtesy of Empower Missouri)

The group is also calling on legislators to pass a bill – known as the Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act – which has failed for several years to make it all the way in the General Assembly. Members say the legislation would clearly prohibit bias in policing and apply sanctions against departments that lag behind in solving bias problems.

As for other potential steps that could be taken, Chapel and Love both say having a dialogue is a good place to start.

“Having that discussion is the foundation of change,” says Love.

One year ago, the NAACP launched a “travel advisory” warning people of color that their civil rights could be violated in Missouri. The advisory cited the attorney general’s traffic report and the passage of a law, Senate bill 43, that makes it more difficult to sue employers for discrimination. Chapel says his organization has not had any “serious discussions” with any statewide elected officials in Missouri about the advisory, implementation, results or ways to discontinue the warning.

“I am loathed to have Missouri known as a state where everybody is not welcome and treated equally. We should not be the homeland of Jim Crow as we are now. We’ve got to work to change that. Until that’s done, the travel advisory will be in effect,” he says.

Chapel says many local Chambers of Commerce have reached out to him expressing they no longer agree with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce’s stance on SB 43.

Hawley Spokesperson Mary Compton has released the following statement to Missourinet:

“It’s an important issue that deserves discussion. Within the guidelines given by the Legislature, we are implementing changes to the survey that provide new insights for local law enforcement agencies and policymakers,” says Compton.

To view this year’s report, click here.

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