While traffic stops may seem routine, they have a high potential to be dangerous. For example, an officer can pull over a driver for speeding not knowing they posses drugs and/or weapons.
In these situations, the driver generally does not want to be brought in. The stop goes from ordinary to dangerous very quickly.
However, one Northern California city has decided that Peace Officers are not the answer. The city will replace Peace Officers with a traffic enforcement team made up of unarmed civilians.
According to the Guardian, Berkley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said. "There may be situations where police do need to intervene, and so we need to look at that."
Officers may still need to respond to stops initiated by civilian traffic enforcement personnel, even though they were initially deemed unnecessary.
The problem with this system is that traffic calls can become violent very quickly and Police may not arrive in time to prevent deadly escalation.
In the Name of a Level Playing Field
The city of Berkley took these measures in July of 2020 in response to community pressure following nationwide anti-police movements.
Many called traffic enforcement just the beginning. Veena Dubal, who is a law professor as well as a former Berkley police review commissioner, said, "Black and Brown men are disproportionately pulled over for minor traffic violations, and that’s when we see this escalation … That is where you see the violence unfold.”
Dubal's thoughts were echoed by Mohamed Shehk, who said that movement needs to be taken further.
“We also need to be dismantling the systems of fines and fees that keep communities that are targeted by these policies in poverty.”Mohamed Shehk
One Step at a Time
Falling in line with the belief that this idea does not move the needle quite far enough, activists call for immediate changes. However, the city will not create the initial department immediately.
It will take time for the adjustment to be made. However, for obvious reasons, many in law enforcement are not on board with the idea.
Mark Cronin, Los Angeles Police Protective League director, says," I think what Berkley is doing is nuts. I think it's a big social experiment. I think it's going to fail."
Unfortunately, people may get hurt in the meantime as this experiment unfolds.
Responsibility to Residents
The fact that the city enacted this policy without consulting Law Enforcement professionals is highly concerning.
Berkley has an obligation to its residents. The city is responsible for keeping them safe. This policy is a dangerous one and hopefully will be reversed before lives are lost.