Removing Police from Traffic Stop Duties is The Only Moral Option


Eddie Anderson | Contributor

Philando Castile. Sandra Bland. Daunte Wright. Tyre Nichols. I say the names of these Black men and women, and I am filled with sadness and righteous anger. Each one of them was murdered by law enforcement as a result of what was supposed to be a ‘routine traffic stop’.

The immoral culture of impunity and abuse among law enforcement that is inflicted upon Black people is not new — who can forget the brutal beating of Rodney King? With police departments across the country owning more military-grade weapons, and with their ever-increasing budgets, we are at a tipping point. We must remove police from places where they continue to harm Black people and other people of color, starting with traffic stops.

According to Mapping Police Violence, in 2022 14% of all police-involved killings were after police stopped the decedents for a traffic stop violation. Their 2022 Police Violence report also found that year after year, police disproportionately kill Black people. There is a problem of racism and militarism manifested in policing. We must hold law enforcement accountable and rein policing in.

That Black people continued to be killed by police over things like broken tail lights or forgetting their turn signal is a national travesty. Removing law enforcement from traffic stop duties and replacing them with unarmed Transportation Agents is an immediate first step that would prevent more senseless deaths.

In February of 2021, the City Council of Berkeley, CA voted to remove police from responding to minor traffic violations such as expired registration or equipment violations. This was a promising step towards meaningful reform. According to Mapping Police Violence, however, though equipment violations have declined as a reason for stops, overall police traffic enforcement has not. Law enforcement is finding other traffic related reasons to stop people. To curtail this, we must enact more expansive traffic restrictions.

The killings of Tyre, of Sandra, and of Keenan Anderson, a 31-year-old Angeleno whom the LAPD recently killed, are both tragedies and business as usual due to the structural racism within American law enforcement. The culture of policing is one that dehumanizes Black people and officers alike. Systems of racism effortlessly use Black and other officers of color against other people of color, as in the case of Tyre.

On its own, more training for officers will not uproot the culture of impunity that perpetuates harm in our community. As long as we ignore the problems of racism and militarism manifested in policing, so too will we lament and wail as our bright stars are extinguished.

As a pastor who preaches Good News and decries evil every Sunday, I cannot sit idly by and watch as law enforcement kill Black people as lawmakers feign helplessness. I pray for the souls of those lost and for safety for my community. My community demands justice. We demand accountability. We demand legislation that reins in law enforcement, and We, the people, demand that instead of putting money into bloated police budgets, we invest in our communities through affordable housing, guaranteed basic income and other safety net programs that help all members of our communities live their lives in health and safety. Our dignity demands it..

At LA Voice we are committed to building a Los Angeles County where all people’s dignity is fully honored. We are committed to creating systems that perpetuate life not death.. We are reimagining public safety through a lens of faith. Removing law enforcement from traffic stop duties is a critical first step — the moral step — to creating real public safety and saving Black lives.

In the end, the question we all must face is one Jesus posed to people before healing them: “Do you want to be made well?” Do we, America?

Rev. Eddie Anderson, M.Div, M.A. is the South LA Regional Organizer for LA Voice and the Senior Pastor of McCarty Memorial Christian Church in Los Angeles, CA.

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