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Cambridge Proposal: Let Unarmed City Employees Make Traffic Stops Instead Of Police

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) -- Two Cambridge city councilors are proposing letting city workers take over primary traffic enforcement duties from the police department. The policy order sponsored by Councilors Quinton Zondervan and Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler says unarmed city employees should make traffic stops, "which would reduce the possibility of violence during such encounters."

The proposal states that 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 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 order states.

Police officers would still be responsible "for apprehending known criminals, dangerous or erratic drivers, and other related situations that clearly go beyond routine traffic enforcement," the proposal says.

"I think it makes a lot of sense. Not even about black lives matter, it's about not needing to be policed about everything," said Tnayza Jackson, of Cambridge.

"At the same time I'd also want to make sure that if someone was doing something illegal while they were driving whoever was responsible for giving them a ticket or enforcing the law was able to peruse them," said Mike Kelly, of Cambridge.

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The councilors are asking the city manager to look into making the change and report back to the city council as soon as possible.

"I'm not leaning one way or another. I think there is so many questions that I have in my mind about that. About what that would look like and what the Cambridge data also shows us," said Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui.

Police have long argued that there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop, and Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville Bard is opposed to the move.

"In my opinion, the order runs afoul of Massachusetts' General Law and shows a lack of forethought," he said in a statement.

Police departments around the country have faced calls for reform since George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May. Last month, a new Cambridge Police Department policy took effect that required officers to intervene if they saw one of their colleagues using unreasonable force.

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