The city of Berkeley makes a unique proposal to replace the police with unarmed civilians when traffic stops, in order to curb racial profiling.
After hours of emotional public testimony, the councilors approved a reform measure in the northern California city that a committee tasked with police reforms is calling for. This includes preventing the police from responding to calls from the homeless or the mentally ill and finding ways to cut the police budget by half. The vote also called for the creation of a separate city ministry to enforce parking and traffic laws.
The plan appears to be a milestone in a U.S. city, as many regions across the country are increasingly being asked to dismantle and dismantle police departments after George Floyd̵
Numerous studies have shown that black drivers are stopped by the police much more frequently than white drivers when minor traffic violations occur, which can sometimes be fatal. Philando Castile, for example, was fatally shot after the 32-year-old was stopped in Minnesota in 2016 for a broken rear light. And Sandra Bland, 28, died three days after her break in a prison cell because she hadn’t given a signal when changing lanes in Texas in 2015.
At the council meeting, the mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin, after the residents shared personal reports of police violence, said he did not expect a new overnight transportation department because the talks of complicated logistics will be difficult and detailed. But he said color communities in his city feel the police are targeting them and that has to change.
“There can be situations where the police have to intervene, so we have to look at it all,” he said. “We have to check whether we are moving traffic control out of the police station. What is the relationship like and how will the police officers work in coordination with unarmed traffic control personnel?”
Some progressive activists in the Bay Area said the move was a step in the right direction, but didn’t go far enough. The majority of the commentators had called for a more radical proposal to immediately relieve the Berkeley police during an almost nine-hour meeting that ended in the middle of the night.
Veena Dubal, law professor at the University of California and former police commissioner in Berkeley, found that traffic surveillance is one of the most common types of police interaction with community members, which can have harmful consequences: “Black and brown men are disproportionately run over for smaller ones Traffic violations, and then we see this escalation … Here’s how the violence unfolds. “
Mohamed Shehk of the abolitionist group Critical Resistance said he supported the idea of removing the police from traffic surveillance, but said it was important that the alternative department created by Berkeley did not repeat the same problems: “We also have to dismantle the systems from Fines and fees that keep communities targeted by this policy in poverty. “
The residents who spoke at the council meeting made it clear that they wanted something “a lot bolder,” he added. “We have seen that incrementalism and cosmetic reforms are not substantial enough to reduce or reverse the enormous amounts of harm, violence, harm and racism that the police have inflicted on communities for decades.”
It might take months or even years to set up a new department, but the police and other law enforcement officials blamed the idea.
“I think what Berkeley is doing is crazy,” said Mark Cronin, director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, an official union. “I think it’s a big social experiment. I think it will fail. “
The Berkeley Police Department said it had not commented on Council legislation. However, the police unions for Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose made a statement against the proposal.
Arreguin, the mayor, said the creation of a new department was a phase 2 development that was at least a year away and would likely involve changes to state law.
The agencies contributed to the reporting