The progressive city of California is implementing an ambitious proposal for the displacement of unarmed civilians during traffic stops in order to minimize its racial profile after hours of intense public testimony, and the Berkeley leaders’ midnight votes.
Earlier Wednesday, the City Council approved a resolution for a police overhaul calling for a public Commission to include a proposed Berkeley Police Force with information that would not respond to complaints concerning homeless or mentally ill people. The Committee will also be focusing on the creation of a new department for the preparation and regulation of parking and traffic legislation.
The Council voted to explore ways to reduce the budget of the Police Department by half and approved a study of police complaints and spending.
A tired but enthusiastic Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said that he did not expect to see a new department of transport overnight, because negotiations with complex logistics would be challenging and complicated. Yet in his neighborhood, color groups felt threatened and changed by the police.
“In situations, the police must interfere so that we have to investigate,” he said. “We need to look at how we are shifting more traffic control from the more, what kind of partnership does that have, and how police officers can interact with unarmed police officers?”
The plan to separate traffic enforcement from police is thought to be the first such plan in the United States and comes as many cities seek broad reforms in the area of public safety including reducing the budget for law enforcement in response to George Floyd ‘s death on May 25, by police in Minneapolis. Even as a number called for further cuts for the police, supporters of the initiative welcomed it.
The introduction of a quality service could take months, even years, but the police and other experts reproached this as risky, not just for road safety, but for the drivers, who they say could be unsafe, who is liable.
“I think it’s a brilliant social experiment,” said the head of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Mark Cronin. “I think this is a major social experiment, and it will not take long to sadly raise traffic accidents and deaths exponentially.”
Cronin, a former traffic cop, notes that cities can not rely on traffic signals or cameras to catch bad vehicles and warn citizens of safe movement. However, those people do need protection and the right to arrest if they encounter a driver who is poisoned, shot, committed a crime, or is wanted on other charges.
“Traffic stops are one of the law enforcement activities most unpredictable, and potentially risky. There is no regular stop and it will take months of police preparation in and outside the Academy to successfully execute them in safety, “said Frank Merenda, former captain of the New York City Police Department who is an assistant criminal justice professor at Marist College.
Philip Stinson, Bowling Green State University professor of criminal justice, called the proposal an “overly simplistic scheme that could have disastrous effects on unarmed law enforcement officers.”
According to the statistics collected by the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, nine U.S. police officers were killed during traffic stops this year. Six have been fired, three vehicles have been hit.
Some reports have shown that Black drivers are stopped by the police even more than whites for minor traffic abuses, and the outcome is often fatal for the driver.
For instance, Philando Castile has been shot dead after the 32-year-old stopped in Minnesota in 2016 for a broken tail light. Sandra Bland, 28, was killed in jail for not revealing when lanes were moved in Texas in 2015 three days after being arrested.
The largely wealthy and progressive 120,000-strong suburb of San Francisco has led the nation in economic, financial, and wealth problems but is still in a low position.
A 2018 study by the Institute for Police Equity, a Los Angeles-based research and advocacy organization, found that Berkeley police detained black and Latin drivers at levels above whites.
Stanford Open Police initiative data analysis has also shown that the searches have been conducted by Black and Latinos drivers even more often than White ones, but less alcohol, guns, and other smuggling have occurred in the search process.
The mayor Arreguín said the formation of a new department is a phase-two development that will possibly require changes to state law at least one year away.
Traffic violations can be risky and require rigorous preparation, Chuck Wexler, Managing Director of an association for a study supporting police best practices. The problems of law enforcement are also justice and prejudice.
He said, “Between the leaders, at the end of the day this law will have to question if it would achieve the desired objectives.