Berkeley Might Remove Traffic Stops from Police Purview

They would be the first city in the United States to do so

Berkeley police
Police might not be doing traffic stops in Berkeley for much longer.
By Tobias Carroll / July 11, 2020 6:00 am

What might a world where police departments are defunded look like? As many advocates of the practice have noted, this wouldn’t represent the end of everything police currently do; rather, it would involve increasing funding for other areas of local government. Presently, police departments handle a host of tasks, many of which are far removed from the actual practice of law enforcement.

An upcoming vote in Berkeley’s City Council might be the start of a shift away from that, however. As Kate Larsen at ABC 7 News reports, the council is set to vote on a proposal which would create a new Department of Transportation for the city, making the new department responsible for handling traffic stops.

Larsen cites one of the organizers of the initiative, Darrel Owens, who has an idea of how funding it might work:

“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 press release from City Councilmember Rigel Robertson, released in late June, noted the recent history of several Black motorists killed by police in traffic stops, and contended that unarmed city employees offer a better alternative.

As East Bay For Everyone’s Darrel Owens noted, traffic stops make up a significant number of encounters people have with the police. If the vote passes, the process of community engagement would begin. And a mid-sized city such as Berkeley could also offer a proof of concept for other areas considering adopting similar policies. For now, though, there’s the vote on the 14th, which looms large over everything else.

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