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Berkeley moves forward with police-free traffic stops

The city will now work towards forming a separate traffic department that will use unarmed city workers


A man sits across from Sproul Hall on the University of California campus in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

By Suzie Ziegler

BERKELEY, Calif. — After a nine-hour meeting lasting into the early morning hours, the city of Berkeley announced Wednesday it would move forward with a proposal to remove police from traffic enforcement duties.

Now the city will work towards forming a separate traffic department that will use unarmed city workers to conduct traffic stops, according to the Associated Press. Nothing will change immediately, but the vote calls on the city manager to order a “community engagement process” that will pursue the creation of the new department.

The East Bay Times called it a “landmark decision,” with experts saying the plan to separate police from traffic is likely the first of its kind.

“For far too long public safety has been equated with more police,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguin at the meeting.

Other changes approved by the city council Wednesday include aiming to reduce the police budget by 50%; removing officers from homeless outreach and services and mental health and crisis management; and establishing a community safety coalition committee, according to the Times.

The Berkeley Police Department said it does not comment on council decisions. However, police unions for Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco released a joint statement Tuesday ahead of the council’s approval, obtained by the Associated Press, on the matter: 

“We do not believe that the public wants lax enforcement of those incidents by non-sworn individuals. Traffic stops are some of the most dangerous actions police officers take. What happens when the felon with an illegal gun gets pulled over by the parking police?” the statement read, “Nothing good, we’re sure of that.”