Annual state data shows African-Americans were pulled over by Missouri law enforcement about 95% more than white drivers last year. The state’s annual vehicle stops report represents a 4% increase from 2018 and the greatest inequality since the report began twenty years ago. It also shows black drivers were 36% more likely than white drivers to get arrested last year.
During a press call with a coalition of social justice and faith leaders, Justice Gatson of the Missouri American Civil Liberties Union says the data is about lives.
“As a black woman in Missouri, a mother, a wife, I live in fear and not just me, countless of my sisters across our state have to hold our breath all the time worrying about our sons, our husbands, the people we love, our sisters too because they’re being brutalized too. And they’re being stopped too,” says Gatson. “My son asked me could he use the car to go to get some ice cream – just like any other teenager wants to do on a late night on a Friday night and I have to say ‘No!’ because I don’t trust our police. I don’t know if my son will come back to me.”
Her husband travels around Missouri operating their small business.
“You all cannot comprehend the fear that I have when he goes out to do some of those jobs,” she says.
Gatson says enough is enough.
“It’s not about numbers for us. We bury people,” she exclaimed.
Sergeant Heather Taylor with the Ethical Society of Police Officers says the numbers are egregious.
“You can explain away some data but some data you can’t,” she says. “You have to look internally within those police departments and most times we are throwing implicit bias at the problems. There’s no data showing implicit bias works. What does work is doing proper investigations before we hire these people that are going out there.”
She says some of the officers are African-Americans who are oppressing their own people.
“We do have that. I’m not going to ever deny that,” says Taylor. “It starts with our hiring and what we’re doing on the front end with that hiring. It’s a problem in St. Louis city, it’s a problem all over the country. I think that we have to focus on police departments and defunding some of the things we are doing in order to get those departments’ attention.”
State statute gives the governor the power to freeze state funding to any law enforcement agency that does not take action to prevent biased policing. During a press conference Monday, Governor Parson, a former Polk County sheriff, was asked about whether he would defund any of the agencies found to have patterns of biased policing.
“What are you talking about? Are you talking about victims’ money that we’re giving for victims to the police departments? Are you talking about the prosecutors’ assistance money that the state’s giving? Are you talking about drug courts,” asks Parson.
To view the report, click here.
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