The city council in Berkeley, California, approved a measure Wednesday to eliminate police from conducting traffic stops and instead send unarmed civilian city workers in their place.
Though several municipalities across the country have proposed and enacted measures to redirect police department funding, the traffic stop measure moving forward in Berkeley is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, Fox News reported.
What are the details?
According to Berkeleyside.com, the traffic stop proposal, introduced by council member Rigel Robinson, aims to “ensure a racial justice lens in traffic enforcement” and find ways to reduce or eliminate “pretextual stops based on minor traffic violations.”
Mayor Jesse Arreguin said the process to reform the transportation department will not happen overnight but that the measure will help alleviate fears in communities of color who feel targeted by police.
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“There may be situations where police do need to intervene, and so we need to look at all that,” he said, adding that the council will need to look at how police can work alongside the new unarmed traffic enforcement personnel.
According to KNTV-TV, the measure is a part of a sweeping overhaul of the way policing is conducted in the community, which includes a 50% slash of the police department’s budget.
In addition to pulling police out of traffic enforcement, the measure aims to stop using police for homeless outreach and mental health crisis calls, the local news outlet noted.
In its place, the council plans to create an unarmed community safety coalition, called the Specialized Care Unit, with the money that used to go to the police department.
The “omnibus motion,” which combined several proposals into one measure, was proposed by the mayor during a nine-hour virtual meeting in which the council heard from members of the community.
The measure was approved in a near unanimous vote by the council at the close of the meeting, which was 3 a.m. local time.
Despite the council’s overwhelming support for the measure, it has been harshly criticized by law enforcement experts, who say the move will be dangerous.
“I think what Berkeley is doing is nuts,” said Mark Cronin, a union director with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, according to the Associated Press. “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.”
Police unions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose issued a joint statement noting that reckless driving, speeding, and driving while under the influence are all examples of “traffic” enforcement violations that could be dangerous.
“We do not believe that the public wants lax enforcement of those incidents by non-sworn individuals,” the unions said, according to Fox News. “Traffic stops are some of the most dangerous actions police officers take. What happens when the felon with an illegal gun gets pulled over by the parking police? Nothing good, we’re sure of that.”