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S.F. Police Commission enacts policy restricting pretextual stops

The policy will forbid officers from stopping drivers or pedestrians for nine traffic infractions under most circumstances, such as driving without functioning rear brake lights

San Francisco Police

AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

By Joanna Putman

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Police Commission has enacted a new policy intended to restrict pretextual stops, CBS San Francisco reported.

The policy was subject to a public input process and extensive bargaining with the Police Officer’s Association, according to the report. It bars officers from stopping drivers or pedestrians for certain minor offenses if they are not the subject of an investigation for another crime or if there is no other reason to pull them over.

According to the report, nine infractions have been identified in the regulation: having only one license plate displayed, having an expired vehicle registration out-of-date by a year or less, failing to illuminate a vehicle’s rear license plate, driving without functioning or illuminated rear taillights, driving without functioning or illuminated rear brake lights, having objects on a vehicle’s windows or hanging from the rearview mirror, failing to activate a turn signal more than 100 feet before turning, sleeping in a parked vehicle and any pedestrian infraction of the California Vehicle Code.

The regulation has several exceptions to prevent drivers from putting themselves or others in immediate danger. The rule does not apply to commercial vehicles, according to the report.

The Police Officer’s Association has asserted that the measure will lead to more crime, according to a KRON 4 report.

“(The Commission) is not only telling San Francisco Police officers how to enforce the law, but they are also picking and choosing which laws to enforce,” union President Tracy McCray stated. “The Police Commission has effectively told the criminals preying on our city that they’re safe from arrest if they obey the speed limit and keep expired tags on their cars. Fewer stops will equal fewer legitimate searches, which means more guns and drugs will be on our streets.”

The commission cited a need to decrease racial profiling in association with pretextual stops, according to the report.

“These modest but important changes will help turn the tide on the unacceptable racial disparities in police stops and spare countless individuals and families the trauma of unlawful searches, needless detentions, and police violence,” Deputy Public Defender Brian Cox stated.