After hours of emotional public testimony and a middle-of-the-night vote by Berkeley leaders, the progressive California city is moving forward with a novel proposal to replace police with unarmed civilians during traffic stops in a bid to curtail racial profiling. The City Council early Wednesday approved a police reform proposal that calls for a public committee to hash out details of a new Berkeley Police Department that would not respond to calls involving people experiencing homelessness, or mental illness. It could take months, even years, to create a new department, but police and other law enforcement experts rebuked the idea as dangerous, not only for traffic safety but for the people tasked with pulling over drivers, who they say can be dangerous.
“I think what Berkeley is doing is nuts,” said Mark Cronin, a director with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, a union for officers. “I think it’s a big social experiment. I think it’s going to fail and it’s not going to take long for, unfortunately, traffic collisions, fatalities to increase exponentially.” Cronin, a former traffic officer, said cities can’t rely on unattended traffic signals, or camera lights to catch bad drivers and that people are needed to educate motorists on safe driving. But those people also need backup and the authority to arrest should they encounter a driver who is intoxicated, armed, and fleeing a crime, or wanted on other charges. “Traffic stops are one of the most unpredictable and therefore dangerous duties of law enforcement. There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop and to perform them effectively and safely takes months of police training in and outside of an academy,” said Frank Merenda, a former New York City Police Department captain who is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Marist College. Nine U.S. police officers were killed during traffic stops so far this year, according to data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. Six were shot, and three were struck by vehicles.
Bias-based profiling is a form of police brutality and an actionable offense to be remedied for victims when police officers seek out individuals based solely on preconceived prejudicial judgments due to race, religion, sexual orientation, or economic status. Bias-based profiling often occurs during traffic stops that may lead to police chases ending in crashes, physical altercations between officers and drivers, or incidence of wrongful death when a driver is pulled over and seems to act irrationally inciting officer’s actions to use excessive, or deadly force.
Hire a lawyer.
If you, or someone you know becomes a victim of bias-based profiling, seek legal counsel who can assist in filing a complaint, or initiating litigation for damages after an individual suffers physical, or emotional harm at the hands of unethical law enforcement officers.