- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - At least eight civil rights advocacy groups have asked to meet with Missouri’s attorney general to discuss his office’s latest findings that black drivers are 75 percent more likely to be stopped in the state than white drivers.

Attorney General Chris Koster released a yearly report Monday showing that the racial disparity in traffic stops involving blacks and whites last year surged to its highest level since the state began compiling data in 2000, when blacks were 31 percent more likely to be pulled over.

On Tuesday, groups such as the Organization for Black Struggle, the Don’t Shoot Coalition and Empower Missouri called on Koster to bring experts together to discuss the best ways to combat racial profiling, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1ePoM1q ) reported.

“If you’re living and driving and are black in St. Louis, this is not a surprise,” said Montague Simmons, executive director and chairman of the Organization for Black Struggle. “We see this as a validation of why we have been in the streets. This movement can’t stop. Everyone thinks everything got quiet in the winter, but there is a lot more in store.”

Monday’s report was the first since Michael Brown was shot and killed in August by a white police officer in Ferguson. Koster’s report showed that black drivers in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb were stopped last year at a rate lower than the statewide average.

Koster cautioned that with 622 law enforcement agencies, there is no single explanation as to why the disparities exist and that the statistics don’t prove law officers are making stops based on the driver’s race. But the Democrat said in a statement that his office’s analysis of nearly 1.7 million 2014 traffic stops “provides law enforcement, legislators and the public a starting point as they consider improvements to process and changes to policy to address these issues.”

Racial disparities in traffic stops may appear higher in some predominantly white cities because of interstate highways or retail and tourist destinations that attract minority drivers who are not part of the local population, law enforcement officials have said.

John Chasnoff with the local Don’t Shoot Coalition said Tuesday that every Missouri officer should be required to undergo the Justice Department’s anti-bias training. The Missouri Peace Officers Standards and Training Program requires officers to get at least three hours of training about racial profiling every three years to maintain their licenses.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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