Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, found her latest cause when her cousin died in a violent encounter with Los Angeles police that began with a minor traffic collision: restricting the involvement of law enforcement officers in traffic stops. Although law enforcement unions helped kill the last California legislative attempt to forbid pretextual traffic stops, the same state senator who sponsored that measure is pushing a similar bill this year — with Cullors' high-profile backing, and with an even more transformative twist: a bid to give cities and counties the power to remove police from traffic stops altogether, leaving the job to other, unarmed government employees, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The proposed limits on traffic stops would essentially expand statewide what Los Angeles has been doing in some form since 2019, much to the ire of the police union. State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) in recent days released more details about his Senate Bill 50, which would prohibit law enforcement officers from pulling over drivers for minor infractions, such as a broken taillight or tinted windows, unless an “independent basis for a stop exists.” “We have seen far too many times how traffic stops can rapidly escalate and turn deadly,” Bradford said in a statement. “In this day and age, there’s no reason why Californians should be stopped and potentially subjected to brutality or dehumanization because of an expired license plate.” Particularly after the death of Sacramento native Tyre Nichols, who was dragged from his car in Memphis and brutally beaten by police during a traffic stop — elected officials in several other cities and states have tried to do the same, with varying degrees of success. The added element of Bradford's bill, barring police involvement in traffic enforcement altogether, isn't possible now in California because state law requires that law enforcement officers enforce violations of the vehicular code. Changing that law, and changing the vote that killed the previous effort, will require public pressure and activism, which is where Cullors enters the picture. “My hope is that when my cousin’s name is used in this next legislative cycle, that it’s used for good,” Cullors said, referring to Keenan Anderson. “That it’s used to help create more change here in the state of California and at the local levels, and not just as political fodder.”