Police killings have added urgency for advocates who are pushing to prevent deadly encounters by removing officers from traffic enforcement, the Guardian reports. Since 2017, police in the U.S. have killed nearly 600 people during traffic stops, about ten percent of all police killings. Some 25 such killings have occurred so far in 2022, and over the last month, the nation's conscience has been shocked by the killing of Patrick Lyoya after a a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Mi. In that case, an officer pinned down Lyoya and pressed his gun to the back of Lyoya's head before firing and killing him. Lyoya had been stopped for having a mismatched license plate. Other infamous killings began as traffic stops. Among police killings of drivers In Minnesota, Daunte Wright was pulled over for having an expired registration tag and Philando Castile was killed after a traffic stop.
Data show that traffic stops disproportionately harm people of color, and many have argued that armed police should not be involved in the vast majority of traffic stops. Since the murder of George Floyd, many cities have experimented with sending unarmed officers to enforce traffic violations. “I see no reason why somebody who has bad tags needs an armed response,” said Amity Dimock, whose son Kobe Dimock-Heisler was killed by police during a mental health crisis in Brooklyn Center, Mn., the same city where Daunte Wright was fatally shot. “Police are trained for combat, for adverse situations, and I think that’s where we should leave them.” Last year, Brooklyn Center officials passed a resolution to create a civilian division responsible for traffic enforcement. In Lansing, Mi., guidelines were adopted to restrict traffic stops for violations unrelated to public safety, such as a cracked windshield. In 2020, Berkeley, Ca., attempted to overhaul its traffic enforcement in favor of an unarmed civilian unit, but state law prevented the city from doing so. Some progressive prosecutors have decided to decline charges if evidence stems from traffic stops unrelated to public safety, as in the case of an officer finding drugs in a stop for a broken taillight.