Study finds Black St. Louisans subjected to police force 4 times more than white people

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ST. LOUIS – Despite a decrease in “use of force” incidents involving St. Louis police, a report finds Black people were subjected to force 4.3 times as often as white people per year.

The report from the Center for Police Equity and co-authored by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department examined policing practices and behaviors over a seven-year period. The ultimate goal is to create a national database on police behavior with standardized data collection, to spur data-driven reforms to improve public safety.

The department provided the CPE with data on pedestrian stops, vehicle stops, and use-of-force data from 2012 to 2019. In turn, the CPE checked to see if Black people “experience frequent or burdensome police contact at a greater rate than other groups.”

Black people make up 47.5% of the population of St. Louis City, whereas white people are 42.9% of the city.

According to the CPE, the three most commonly used types of police force during the reporting period were: weaponless force; Taser point, display, or discharge; and firearm point, display, or discharge. Regarding police use of a firearm, the report did not break categories down any further than that.

Pedestrian stops decreased by 82% from 2012 to 2019. However, Black pedestrians were stopped approximately 2.3 times as often as white people on average. African Americans made up 70.4% of all pedestrians stopped during the reporting period.

According to the report, neighborhood characteristics also play a significant role when it comes to racial disparities in pedestrian stops. In neighborhoods where crime and poverty rates are average, police stopped Black and white pedestrians in equal measure. However, in neighborhoods with less poverty, Black individuals were more likely to be stopped than white people.

Vehicle stops increased 11.6% from the end of 2016 to the end of 2019. During that time, Black drivers made up 65.4% of all vehicle stops, whereas white drivers accounted for 32.3% of the stops.

St. Louisans can respond to the report at a virtual town hall on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. The CPE is co-hosting the town hall with the St. Louis Violence Prevention Commission, Department of Public Safety, and Mayor Tishaura Jones. Community members can RSVP for the town hall by clicking here.

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