Logo Cambio de colores 2003

cambio de colores (change of colors)
in missouri: neighbors in urban and rural communities

march 12-14, 2003
university of missouri-kansas city

poster & table exhibits
Last updated:
July 3, 2003

Law Enforcement and Racial Profiling Workshop

Compiled by Erin Eggers
A report contributed by

  • Dee Al-Mohammed,University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law
  • Leigh E. Herbst, Asst Professor at University of Nebraska-Omaha
  • Gary Maddox, Director of Law Enforcement Training Institute

To compare statewide stop records, go the Attorney General’s website. While the numbers of Latinos who have been stopped seem significantly high in some areas of rural Missouri, the numbers are down from the 2000 report.

We need to stress accountability for racial profiling and monitor police stops to promote sustainable, effective change.

Racial profiling from the officers and Latino perspective

Officers’ perspective:

  1. Number of vehicle stops has been reduced.  If there is any hesitation, it’s because of racial profiling. They don’t want their stats to look like they are stopping a lot of Hispanics.
  2. Failure to report/altering statistics. Officers will check the white male box, especially if the person has a non-Hispanic last name.
  3. Accusations of discrimination. Officers are afraid of being accused of violating someone’s rights.
  4. Population as a baseline is inaccurate. The census is only taken every 10 years. There is a perception that many Latinos are undocumented, which affects the true population.  Latino residents’ work mobility alters the population.
  5. Night shift officers cannot visibly determine driver race or ethnicity.
  6. Disproportionate traffic offenses. New immigrants are not well-educated on basic rules.  (Ex: in Missouri, every car needs 2 license plates.)

Latino perspective:

  1. Language Barrier. Drivers are unable to ask about stops, searches, etc. They are confused about issued tickets/summons, and they feel there is no recourse to dispute tickets/summons.
  2. Often you are stopped because you’re Latino.
  3. Latinos are not likely to complain to police.
  4. Often calls to police are the result of a simple misunderstanding.   (Ex: noise violation)

For communicating with Law Enforcement on Racial Profiling:

  1. Establish trust between Latinos and Law Enforcement
  2. Share experiences with Law Enforcement
  3. Set up Task Forces- combination of Latino residents and leader and law enforcement
  4. Access to Racial Profiling reports
  5. Access to bilingual material, specifically Missouri drivers license manuals and city ordinances and statutes
  6. “Welcome to our town” videos, with tips and expectations in Spanish
  7. Outreach

Who are the police officers?

17,000-18,000 in the state of Missouri - includes city, county, university, water patrol, highway patrol, and park rangers.

There are currently more men than women, but the number of women joining has skyrocketed in recent years.

It’s a young person’s profession: most are between 21-33 years old.

Officers go through training but little time is spent on communication skills or diversity training.  However, communication is one of the most important aspects of the job.  A police officer is paid to enforce the law and maintain peace.

In order to communicate well, both the public and police officers ought to:

-be nice
-be professional
-be polite
-be on guard
-be specific and direct when asked questions

There are no specific requirements for passengers when a driver is stopped.  A stop should not take long unless it’s an arrest.  If it is, the driver should say nothing without a lawyer.

The caliber, quality, and dedication of the police force is much better than it was 30 years ago. It is more diverse in terms of gender, racially, and ethnically.