Berkeley, CA — As TFTP reported earlier this week, the City of Berkeley, California proposed ending police traffic enforcement. Then, on Wednesday, they did it.
The move comes after claims that police officers all too often escalate minor traffic stops into deadly situations. These claims are well founded.
After debating into the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Berkeley City Council approved this most unprecedented move.
According to KTVU:
The council approved Mayor Jesse Arreguin's omnibus measure, which includes elements, such as creating a Department of Transportation that will make and enforce traffic stops, rather than utilize Berkeley police officers, hire a consultant to analyze police calls and responses, and determine which calls can be answered by non-police officers, as well as setting a goal to reduce the police budget by 50%.
The Berkeley City Council had recently approved a city budget that decreased police department spending by $9.2 million, or about 12% of the police budget.
The move also now allocated $100,000 from the general fund to analyze and develop a specialized care unit to handle these calls and $160,000 for an auditor to analyze police calls and responses.
"Most traffic stops don't really warrant a police officer," said Darrell 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. According to ABC 7, he says ideally the city would take money away from Berkeley PD to fund a new department.
"A minor traffic violation should not have resulted in the murder of a black or brown body, but at the same time we can also re-examine the nature of punitive law enforcement and broken windows policing that makes traffic enforcement so deadly to begin with."
The officials who proposed ending police traffic enforcement dispelled any preconceived notions that this would allow dangerous criminals and drunks to rule the roads.
"We don't want to inhibit apprehending dangerous criminals or drunk drivers. That is not the intent," said Berkeley City councilmember, Lori Droste.
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Now we shall see how it plays out. Without police officers constantly patrolling the streets to cite and arrest people for window tint, seat belt violations, and license plate lights, they can likely devote those man hours to solving real crimes like rapes and murders.
Though it is a step in the right direction, this move stops short of actually ending the practice of extorting citizens. The traffic cops will likely be replaced with a civilian enforcement arm to monitor traffic.
Berkeley's City Council will now create a Department of Transportation and use employees in that department to make traffic stops instead of Berkeley Police officers.
"I get stopped when I'm in my car many times and there's no straight answer for it... and you know what it's about, it's about skin color," said Berkeley resident, Tim Davis on Monday. "I don't think police should do everything in the City."
As we reported on Monday, unfortunately, Davis is right.
While most everyone in America commits these same traffic infractions designed for revenue collection instead of safety, most of the people targeted by police for these crimes are the poor and minorities. Often times, officers treat these stops as gateways to fish for drug activity or other victimless crimes. While ending the drug war would have a much more profound effect, this is a good start.
As the 2014 death of Mike Brown in Ferguson exposed, in 2013, African-Americans accounted for 86 percent of traffic stops, while making up only 63 percent of Ferguson’s population.
For those too poor to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops in Ferguson ended up in repeated imprisonment due to mounting fines. Ferguson was running a de facto debtors' prison.
Traffic revenue collection, persecution of the poor, and debtor's prisons take place in every county, in every city, across every state. This institutionalized cruelty is little more than a day's work for the millions of bureaucrats involved in the racket.
Sadly, until this system of wealth extraction is defunded or brought to a halt through radical policy changes like the one in Berkeley or ending the drug war, cases of cops preying on the poor will continue at an ever increasing rate until the whole country is one big prison — or, burned to the ground.