Berkeley works to reform police traffic enforcement

Bay Area

BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) – The killing of Daunte Wright has reinvigorated the debate over police and traffic enforcement duties.

Locally, the city of Berkeley has been working to limit police involvement in low-level traffic stops. Proponents have pointed to these kinds of killings by police as a reason why it’s necessary. 

City officials in Berkeley voted unanimously to have police focus primarily on investigative stops and dangerous drivers back in February.

The idea is to help rebuild mistrust of the police by people of color. 

Some city leaders in Berkeley say what happened in Minnesota is another example of why traffic enforcement needs to be reimagined.

In the moments before Daunte Wright was killed by a Brooklyn Center police officer, he was being stopped for expired registration tags.

The violation is considered a low-level traffic offense and leaders in the city of Berkeley say this killing could have been avoided.

“My heart is broken, I’m infuriated. This moment is a reminder to all of us of just how important the work that we’re doing in Berkeley to reimagine traffic enforcement is,” Rigel Robinson said. 

Southside councilmember Rigel Robinson and others have been pushing for police to focus on safety instead of minor infractions when it comes to traffic stops. 

Robinson says getting pulled over is the most common interaction between police and residents in the community and because of that, traffic enforcement needs to be reimagined.

“Non-violent crimes deserve non-violent responses and we want to see a future where Black Americans can drive and bike and walk and feel safe in America without fear of being pulled over by the cops for crimes that they’re imagined to have done,” Robinson said.

Berkeley City Council has put forth “BerkDOT” as a way to de-police traffic stops in the city. 

BerkDOT, short for Berkeley Department of Transportation, would use trained civilians to handle most traffic enforcement. 

Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood has said his officers have begun focusing more on dangerous drivers as opposed to “random observations of minor equipment violations.”

The police union, however, has warned this reform will make Berkeley less safe calling the process a one-way street and Mothers Against Drunk Driving has also opposed the idea saying police are trained to identify impaired drivers. 

Robinson agrees this vision is bold but can help prevent outcomes like the one we saw in Minnesota.

“This is unchartered territory. we’re asking questions that I think, too few cities have been asking themselves about the role of policing in our society,” Robinson said.

One of the obstacles BerkDOT has struggled to overcome is within state law. People who are not properly licensed to do a traffic stop such as a peace officer cannot do a traffic stop. 

Advocates say they’re working to get state legislators on their side to help change the law to move forward with changing traffic enforcement.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

Trending Stories

Latest News

More News