Unarmed City Workers, Not Police Officers, to Perform Traffic Stops in California City

The Berkeley City Council’s vote directed the city manager and city officials to “reimagine public safety” and pursue the creation of a new Department of Transportation “to ensure a racial justice lens in traffic enforcement and the development of transportation policy, programs, & infrastructure,” according to a copy of the council’s agenda.

The goal is “to reduce and/or eliminate the practice of pretextual stops based on minor traffic violations.”

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, a Democrat who was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), folded the proposal into an omnibus motion.

Arreguin said he doesn’t expect a new transportation department overnight because conversations will be hard and detailed with complicated logistics to figure out. But he said minorities in his city feel targeted by police and that needs to change.

“I think what Berkeley is doing is nuts,” said Mark Cronin, a former traffic officer who directs the Los Angeles Police Protective League, a union for officers. “I think it’s a big social experiment. I think it’s going to fail and it’s not going to take long for, unfortunately, traffic collisions, fatalities to increase exponentially.”

Frank Merenda, a former New York City Police Department captain who is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Marist College, added: “Traffic stops are one of the most unpredictable and therefore dangerous duties of law enforcement. There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop and to perform them effectively and safely takes months of police training in and outside of an academy.”

And Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, described the idea as an “overly simplistic plan that could have deadly consequences for unarmed traffic enforcement officers.”