For the past few decades, it seems like every government’s agency to any social problem has been “what if we just paid cops to handle it?” with disastrous results. Now, Berkeley, California may take one responsibility away from police: traffic stops.
Local ABC7 news reports from the Bay Area:
Next week, Berkeley’s City Council will vote on a proposal to create a Department of Transportation and use employees in that department to make traffic stops instead of Berkeley Police officers.
“Most traffic stops don’t really warrant a police officer,” said Darrel Owens, the co-executive of East Bay for Everyone, a housing and traffic non-profit. He helped pitch the new, one-year plan to Berkeley City Council. He says ideally the city would take money away from Berkeley PD to fund the new department.
“A minor traffic violation should not have resulted in the murder of a black or brown body, but at the same time we can also re-examine the nature of punitive law enforcement and broken windows policing that makes traffic enforcement so deadly to begin with.”
The job of stopping drivers would go to a Department of Transportation, rather than cops.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that keeping roads and highways safe is something cops just aren’t particularly good at.
They are, however, very good at collecting fines, trapping people in cycles of debt, and disproportionally targeting, harassing, and killing Black people and people of color.
Already one section of Manhattan has proposed relieving police of the responsibility of handling traffic enforcement on top of everything else they are supposed to do. It’s little surprise that a whole town might follow suit.
We hope that the Berkeley city council moves forward with the plan, puts additional funding into safer road design, programs to keep drunk people from driving home, and we get to see if modern “traffic safety” really makes a case for itself.