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Local organization leads community discussion on traffic stop racial disparities

A speedometer is at zero.
Black drivers in Missouri during 2022 were stopped at a rate of 1.68 times higher than the rate at which white drivers were stopped. In Columbia, that rate was much higher.

The Mid-Missouri Civil Liberties Association (MOCLA) will go over the results of the 2022 Missouri Attorney General’s Vehicle Traffic Stopsreport at a public discussion today at Daniel Boone Regional Library at 7 p.m.

The numbers show that across the state, traffic stop disparity indexes for Black drivers were at a higher rate than white drivers — with a rate of 1.68. In Columbia, the disparity was about four times greater.

Don Love, a former member of the Columbia Traffic Stops Commission and member of the MOCLA Board of Directors, will not only present the data, but also teach community members how to track the numbers themselves.

“The data is what we need to provide the objective evidence that there is a problem out there," he said.

Love added the learning session will help communities give guidance to their police force and track the numbers themselves using spreadsheet and filtering skills.

“We can make significant changes in the way Black drivers are affected by officer actions," he added. Although he acknowledged racism is not something that can easily go away, "that doesn't mean we can't do something to protect ourselves."

Love said those numbers are actually an improvement from past years, as the former math teacher has been studying the traffic stops report for several years.

"But there are still agencies that have quite high disproportions, that indicates that there's still progress to be made on this," he said.

Nonetheless, the numbers still show a disparity between Black and white drivers.

"That needs to be examined. And that needs to be explained, if there is an explanation. I think people need to recognize the problem first and then search for solutions," MOCLA Board of Directors President Dan Viets said.

Viets said the association might host more events like these in the future.

"I think it's very important that people have information about this. Maybe there are some mitigating factors, maybe there's some explanation. But, you know, it's difficult, I think, to understand why the disparity is so great in Columbia," he added.

Viets, an attorney, said one reason why these numbers may be skewed is because not all drivers are aware they do not have to consent and are not required to give permission for vehicle searches. He recommends community members make use of their phones if there are situations they feel would benefit from a recording.

This article has been updated to clarify the numbers used in the article are disparity indexes.

Kassidy Arena was the Engagement Producer for KBIA from 2022-2023. In her role, she reported and produced stories highlighting underrepresented communities, focused on community outreach and promoting media literacy. She was born in Berkeley, California, raised in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated with a degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
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