Get the police out of traffic enforcement

Matt Dragon @matt_dragon
Published: 04/21/2021

Most of us can viscerally recall an experience of getting pulled over by the police. The flashing lights, loud siren, and the flood of questions in your mind about what you did or what you failed to renew. But as a white man there's a question I've never had pop into my head as a driver or passenger: "Am I about to die?"

Department of Justice data shows over 24 million people are stopped for traffic violations each year. The Washington Post found 11% of fatal shootings by police in 2015 occurred during a traffic stop. Traffic stops are overwhelmingly safe for police officers — they are more likely to be struck by lightning than killed during a traffic stop. So why is there so much violence by officers during traffic stops? Systemic, racist disparities make it so Black motorists are stopped more often. Black people are also more likely to be shot and killed by police. The two taken together create a substantial risk for our Black neighbors.

But what if the person making traffic stops was a traffic specialist, not a police officer? Carrying a taser or mace to be used only for self-defense, instead of a gun? What if they didn’t have handcuffs and couldn’t make arrests? Several cities and states are moving forward with this exact plan.

Many towns already have separate departments responsible for parking enforcement who could also enforce traffic laws. The police would still pull over drivers they suspected were under the influence or who were driving recklessly and creating a safety issue. But they would be barred from stopping drivers for minor infractions. This would save lives. Contact your representatives and tell them you want their help getting the police out of traffic enforcement. We owe it to our neighbors.

Topics: Black Lives MatterCriminal Justice ReformDefund the PolicePolicing