Berkeley may be 1st U.S. city to propose eliminating police from traffic stops, enforcement

Saturday, July 11, 2020
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In the East Bay, in what's believed to be a first in the nation proposal, the City of Berkeley has proposed ending police traffic enforcement.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- In the East Bay, in what's believed to be a first in the nation proposal, the City of Berkeley has proposed ending police traffic enforcement.

Next week, Berkeley's City Council will vote on a proposal to create a Department of Transportation and use employees in that department to make traffic stops instead of Berkeley Police officers.

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"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. He says ideally the city would take money away from Berkeley PD to fund the 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."

Berkeley's no stranger to radical ideas, but when it comes to this proposal, many people ABC7 spoke to in Downtown Berkeley were not necessarily ready for this new idea.

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"That's crazy," said Adrian, who works in Berkeley and did not want to share his last name. He does not think the proposal is a good idea. "Doing traffic stops is also a dangerous job. You don't know who you're stopping!"

"Policeman are trained to deal with those situations," said Patricia Kipnis, who has lived in Berkeley for 30 years. She's not surprised that the plan was proposed in Berkeley, but she does not support it.

"I think the police need to be doing what they do best, which is securing the safety of our population, including traffic violations."

But, Berkeley resident, Tim Davis, has a different perspective.

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"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 Davis, who added, "I don't think police should do everything in the City."

"We don't want to inhibit apprehending dangerous criminals or drunk drivers. That is not the intent," said Berkeley City councilmember, Lori Droste.

Along with the Mayor, Droste and two other Berkeley councilmembers are sponsoring the proposal.

"A serious discussion of the role of modern policing is incomplete without a conversation around traffic enforcement."

Droste says it's unclear right now where the funding for the program might come from.

Next week's vote is to begin the community engagement process.