The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to explore options to divert enforcement of traffic violations from armed police to civilian enforcement.
The motion was introduced by Councilmen Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren D. Price and former Councilman Herb Wesson Jr. in June 2020 during anti-racism and police brutality demonstrations following the death of George Floyd.
“Law enforcement agencies nationwide and here in Los Angeles have long used minor traffic infractions as a pretext for harassing vulnerable road users and profiling people of color. From jaywalking citations in Downtown and Skid Row to operations by the Metropolitan Division in South LA, the Los Angeles Police Department’s history of misusing traffic enforcement has fostered decades of distrust in communities of color that ultimately undermines true traffic safety initiatives,” the motion stated.
“Data has shown that Los Angeles police officers stop and search Black and Latino motorists far more often than whites. Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be removed from the vehicle and twice as likely to either be handcuffed or detained at the curb. Many Black residents speak of frequently being pulled over for `driving while Black.’ Fear of racial profiling is often cited as barrier to active transportation in Black and Latino communities, often even more than lack of infrastructure.”
The vote directed the Los Angeles Department of Transportation — with assistance from the city administrative officer, chief legislative analyst, the LAPD and the city attorney — to begin steps to conduct a study on the feasibility of using civilian enforcement of traffic laws. It also directed those city departments to review:
— the L.A. Municipal Code, the California Vehicle Code and other relevant traffic laws for outdated enforcement sections that could be decriminalized or removed;
— unarmed traffic enforcement techniques in the United States and internationally that could be used as models; and
— the size of the city of Los Angeles in population and square mileage, and the city’s diversity, including racial demographics, number of languages, number of people living in poverty and any other factors that would be relevant to developing the civilian enforcement program.
The L.A. Department of Transportation was also directed to create an advisory task force to create recommendations for traffic safety alternatives and hold community meetings to solicit feedback regarding community needs.
The LAPD was directed to report on the top five most cited traffic violations and the number of vehicle stops and arrests for traffic enforcement/violations, including data on gender and ethnicity of those cited or arrested and the bureau, traffic division or station between 2018 and 2020.
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