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Two city councilors from Cambridge, Massachusetts have suggested that unarmed city employees should make traffic stops instead of law enforcement officers.
The policy order was put forward by Councilors Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler and Quinton Zondervan, saying that unarmed traffic stops "would reduce the possibility of violence during such encounters," according to CBS Boston.
The policy mentions that members of law enforcement would still be responsible "for apprehending known criminals, dangerous or erratic drivers," but there is no mention of the danger these unarmed city employees could be subject to should they encounter a dangerous person during a traffic stop in the absence of law enforcement.
CBS Boston notes that the proposed policy states "Black and brown drivers are pulled over and searched more often than white drivers—a 'racist outcome' that is the result of systemic biases."
The proposal policy continues by saying that "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."
This comes after a new law was issued in Cambridge in February, the Welcoming Community ordinance, which suggested that officers not arrest those who are found to be driving without a license, but to give a summons instead. This according to Wicked Local.
This legislation was also sponsored by Councilor Quinton Zondervan. Zondervan said that in the event that an unlicensed driver has additional reasons for arrest, such as outstanding warrants, the individual should still be arrested. It is unclear how an unarmed city employee would go about arrested an individual who has an invalid license and a stack of warrants.
In February, Zondervan said "Obviously, if there’s other arrest warrants out for this person they would arrest them as normal. But if the only issue at the moment is that they’re driving without a license, the police already [have] two options, they can arrest the person or they can give them a court summons and arrange for someone to pick them up and drive their car."
Zondervan's primary concern was that a traffic stop would not lead to an undocumented immigrant entering the criminal justice system or becoming involved with immigration and border control services.
The proposed policy regarding unarmed officers conducting traffic stops does not account for circumstances in which an individual may resist arrest, or simply not stop, as there does not appear to be any real consequences for unlawful driving under the proposed plan.
The councilors have asked the city manager to consider the change and response to the city council as quickly as possible.