ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A top Twin Cities prosecutor says a plan to close the racial gap in traffic stops is on the road to success. An outside study found that the number of drivers pulled over in Ramsey County for violations like expired tabs fell by 20% among all stops.
The change comes after participating police and prosecutors agreed to focus on enforcing safety threats like speeding instead.
It's been a two-year experiment thus far. Ramsey County Prosecutor John Choi shared the positive results they've seen in that time, by changing the way many drivers on the roads of Ramsey County are policed.
St. Paul, Roseville, Maplewood, and St. Anthony Village's police departments cut back on the number of equipment stops.
"These types of traffic stops, the equipment violations, they don't really relate to public safety, and so we'd like to focus on the things that matter to our community," Choi said.
An equipment stop is for issues like an air freshener blocking your view, or a cracked windshield. As an alternative, cities like St. Paul and Roseville will take down your license plate number and send you a letter in the mail, explaining the violation and giving you a solution to fix it.
The goal of this policy change is to address racial disparity and rebuild the trust between police and people.
Since this new policy started in September 2021, equipment traffic stops dropped 86% and searches dropped 92%. Of these types of traffic stops, there have been 66% fewer equipment traffic stops for Black drivers.
"I consider this a human rights policy," said Tyrone Terrill, president of the African American Leadership Council. "One guy said to me, 'This just saved my life.' And I asked him and he said, 'Sometimes I don't drive my car because the taillight is out.'"
Research done by an outside group called the Justice Innovation Lab shows police found guns or drugs in minor traffic stops less than 5% of the time.
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