Traffic Cops w/o Guns

Remember when cops used to write parking tickets? Today, most cities have unarmed parking enforcement officers. Maybe there’s more “armed police functions” that could be delegated to “non-sworn” personnel.

Let’s see what Berkeley, CA is thinking. The following article is from Brett Simpson, a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.


Traffic enforcement has long been a cop’s job. Berkeley may go another direction

July 12, 2020

If a Berkeley proposal inspired by the country’s racial justice movement goes through, police officers won’t be pulling people over for speeding, blowing through red lights or flipping U-turns in the middle of Telegraph Avenue.

Don’t get too excited. Traffic enforcement isn’t going away — it just wouldn’t be the job of armed officers.

The first-of-its-kind proposal, due for a City Council vote Tuesday, is a response to the reckoning over brutality and racial bias in law enforcement that followed the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and has put pressure on leaders to rethink their approach to public safety.

The proposal, while novel and potentially complex, has garnered some praise from racial justice advocates and transportation planners, and officials in Los Angeles and New York City have hinted at following Berkeley’s lead.

“Within a day, an L.A. City Council member was messaging me on Twitter about it,” said Berkeley Councilman Rigel Robinson, who introduced the proposal on June 29. “As far as we know, something like this hasn’t been meaningfully attempted before.”

The policy, dubbed BerkDOT, aims to fundamentally change the approach to minor traffic violations that disproportionately impact Black and brown people by creating a new Berkeley Department of Transportation, which would be staffed with unarmed civil servants. The city’s current transportation commission falls under the Public Works Department, while traffic and parking enforcement rest with the investigations bureau of the police force.

Berkeley’s new department would unite planning and enforcement under the common goal of creating safer streets.

“We don’t have all of the answers yet,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who co-sponsored the measure. “But somebody has to break ground on this. And Berkeley is committed that this is a conversation we need to explore.”

Berkeley police declined to address the proposal, saying “the department does not comment on city legislation.”

Traffic enforcement makes up 52% of interactions that Americans have with the police, and Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be stopped and searched, according to data from the Stanford Open Policing Project. As the tragic deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota, Sandra Bland in Texas, and Maurice Gordon in New Jersey illustrate, traffic stops can too often turn deadly for Black men and women.

Berkeley’s Police Department hasn’t had a police shooting since 2012 but, like many cities, its traffic stop data reflects racial disparity. A 2018 Center for Policing Equity report found that Black drivers in Berkeley were four times more likely than white drivers to be searched after a stop, and Hispanic drivers were three times more likely to be searched.

You can read the rest of the article HERE.


  1. Chief, interesting article. I sincerely hope that Berkeley City Council gives the issue serious appraisal before implementation. Police managers know that when police lights are activated, a simple traffic stop can go bad and turn into a pursuit. There are questions the city council should respond to before implementation; such as who can call off the pursuit if it enters a residential neighborhood or a school zone, what happens if the violator is armed and just committed a felony crime, who makes the arrest if the violator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

    Interestingly, it was in Berkeley that the man considered to be “the father of modern American policing” was elected Town Marshal, and later appointed chief of police, 115 years ago. Police innovation began at Berkeley. I am not sure how Chief Vollmer would regard these potential changes in police duties.

    On another note, I frequently read in papers submitted by students that Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin died at the hands of the police. I have to remind them that Ms. Bland tragically died as a result of suicide almost 4 days after being incarcerated. However, I admit that there may have been contributory negligence on the part of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office. Trayvon Martin, of course, was killed by a citizen. The media and some advocacy organizations claim that because Mr. Zimmerman was a “Neighborhood Watch Captain” he was de facto a member of law enforcement.


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