By Kimberly Torres
ATLANTA, GA — Three black leaders offer their solution to reducing police brutality against the black community in an opinion piece on CNN last week.
Patrick Gaspard is President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, Rashad Robinson is President of Color of Change, America’s largest online racial justice organization, and Nicholas Turner is President and Director of the Vera Institute of Justice, an organization dedicated to racial reform dedicated to criminal justice.
“Traffic stops are poor crime-fighting tools and make the roads significantly less safe for black drivers,” they said of traffic stops that targeted and continue to target low-income and vulnerable black men.
The authors added: “Statistics show that traffic stops are one of the most common ways police encounter the public. The police make 20 million checks every year.”
They note that the 20 million stops are neither necessary nor directed efforts to ensure safety.
“Traffic stops are a big moneymaker…some cities generate at least 10 percent of their annual budget from traffic stop revenue,” the three black leaders explained
Because the black community has been targeted by police in the past, they argue, there is evidence that “black motorists are less likely than white drivers to possess illegal items such as drugs or guns, but they are stopped more often and later in a traffic delay.” they are more likely to be searched.”
They continue to back up their position with statistical data, explaining how many of the police’s routine checks are unnecessary overall.
“Of the 1,000 people killed by police every year, 10 percent are involved in traffic stops. The most frequently mentioned reasons for a traffic delay? One study found that nearly half involved minor issues like a broken taillight, broken or missing license plate, or tinted windows,” read their CNN op-ed piece.
The three black leaders demanded, “Changing the way traffic stops take place in this nation is fundamental to any discussion of police reform.”
The authors of the CNN article charge that this issue of unnecessary traffic stops is a nationwide issue that has yet to be addressed, not just at a local or state level. Leaving this problem to local authorities leaves other parts of the country in a vulnerable position.
“Stopping traffic has proven deadly coast-to-coast, but waiting for communities to resolve the issue means black Americans living in these cities and states could be at risk anytime they choose to travel. Immediate action is required and the Biden administration must take the lead,” the three black leaders said.
The three black presidents emphasize, “States and localities have an important role to play in enacting laws and regulations to end, or at least limit, the use of traffic stops for minor issues that do not affect safety — such as: B. a broken or tinted rear light window.”
The three black leaders commended states that have already taken positive action to reduce police brutality in the wake of Tire Nichols’ death, including “the Memphis City Council, bowing to public demands and taking a step in the right direction, by considering an ordinance that will direct police away from low-level stops.”
They add, “Some states have adopted or are considering similar policies, including Virginia, Oregon and Washington, and the cities of Philadelphia and Chapel Hill, North Carolina … Meanwhile, prosecutors in Minnesota, Michigan and Vermont have found resulting law enforcement practices result from.” Traffic stops so unnecessarily harmful that they have refused to prosecute any cases that arise as a result.”
Black leaders state: “The U.S. Department of Transportation transfers hundreds of millions of dollars in road safety funds to states each year on condition that communities participate in traffic enforcement. Federal, state and local politicians can save countless lives by reforming traffic stops.”
They continue, “States and cities can also eliminate the basis for millions of traffic delays in the first place by offering motorists coupons for free repairs and services to fix broken taillights, replace a broken or missing license plate, or renew an expired registration . Several counties and cities have started these types of programs, including Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.”
“Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg should direct his department to issue safety grants to places that limit low-level traffic stops and rely on traffic enforcement methods other than police, including civilian traffic professionals who can address traffic safety issues without intimidation – and potential danger.” a badge and a gun,” notes the CNN Op-Ed.
It adds: “None of these reforms will require more policing or more funding for the police. All of them would increase security in black communities that are over-patrolled but under-served. Police funding can be used to investigate and solve real crimes, rather than undermining the legitimacy of law enforcement in our communities.”
Weeks after the first killing of Nichols, “the Department of Justice announced last week that it will review the use of force by the Memphis Police Department. There are also plans to investigate the operations of specialized police units, such as the one responsible for the assassination of Tire Nichols,” the three black leaders explain, adding, “The federal authorities’ decision to open an investigation into the events leading up to… assassination of Nichols is welcome news.”
“As three black men, we know firsthand the concern that whether our everyday driving, our brothers and sisters, or nieces and nephews and children, will end in tragedy—as it did for Nichols,” the authors state .
They conclude: “As leaders of three of the nation’s largest organizations dedicated to criminal and racial justice, we understand we can take concrete steps to enact policies that will stop traffic for our families and all black people.” make Americans safer.
“We as a society need to stop inciting police departments to conduct traffic stops for low-level crimes. We can’t wait until the next tragedy to take these concrete steps forward… (it’s) the best way to honor Tire Nichols and countless others who have been surveilled, harassed, and killed too many times while doing something so simple like driving as a black man did.”