CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A controversial proposal in Cambridge is encouraging the city to consider relieving police officers of traffic stop duties.
The proposal suggests that unarmed trained enforcement personnel could take over the responsibility.
Two Cambridge city councilors, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler and Quinton Zondervan, introduced the motion on Monday.
The policy states, “Routine traffic stops disproportionately impact Black and Brown drivers, who are pulled over and searched more often than white drivers, leading to potentially stressful interactions with the police.”
The motion clarifies that police would still be responsible for apprehending known criminals, dangerous or erratic drivers and other related situations that “clearly go beyond routine traffic enforcement.”
“The presence of an armed police officer during a routine traffic stop raises the tension of the encounter unnecessarily and can itself lead to conflict, causing harmful stress to both parties and damaging the relationship between police and the community,” the policy argues.
Cambridge Police Commissioner Dr. Branville Bard Jr. is voicing opposition to the concept.
“In my opinion, the order runs afoul of Massachusetts’ General Law and shows a lack of forethought,” said Commissioner Bard in a statement sent to Boston 25 News.
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police, also blasted the proposal in a written statement.
“Because of the inherent risk of significant danger associated with the local proposal in the city of Cambridge to allow unarmed, unprotected and untrained civilians the ability to stop occupied motor vehicles to issue RMV citations, we felt compelled to comment and call attention to the fact that there is never anything routine in stopping a car for a traffic violation. Hundreds of Police Officers across the country have been killed over the years during traffic stops. This proposal would absolutely put individuals in harm’s way and is incredibly dangerous,” said Kyes.
The proposal asks Cambridge’s city manager to “look into transferring primary traffic enforcement responsibilities from the Cambridge Police Department to unarmed, trained enforcement personnel in the Traffic & Parking Department, Department of Public Works, Health & Human Services, or another suitable department.”
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