Some St. Louis-area black drivers long have avoided main roads or chosen not to drive at all to avoid getting pulled over by the police. It hasn’t seemed to prevent them from getting stopped, ticketed and fined at higher rates than people of other races, reports the New York Times. After a police officer killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown five years ago in Ferguson, protests led to a public outcry over race and policing. People were outraged to learn municipalities had been issuing traffic tickets to finance city services — and jailing drivers who could not afford to pay — with blacks bearing the brunt of those policies. Black drivers continue to be stopped at much higher rates than white drivers, a disparity that has actually grown in Ferguson despite changes that have greatly reduced the number of traffic tickets, fines and arrest warrants issued.
Statewide, black motorists were nearly twice as likely as other motorists to be stopped, based on their share of the driving-age population, says a Missouri attorney general’s annual report on traffic stops. White drivers were stopped six percent less than would be expected. In Ferguson, the disparity in traffic stops of black drivers has increased by five percentage points since 2013, while it has dropped by 11 percentage points for white drivers. “I can’t say things have gotten better,” said Blake Strode of ArchCity Defenders, a legal advocacy organization that has fought ticketing practices. While traffic courts in the region might be less crowded than they were several years ago, the makeup of the drivers looks largely the same. During a traffic court session in Ferguson in mid-July, the line stretched out the door. Although the city is two-thirds black, almost everyone appearing before the judge that day was black.