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'Significant Racial Disparities' Prompted Calls To Change Minneapolis Police Traffic Enforcement Policies

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minneapolis police will no longer be pulling drivers over for minor offenses, such as items dangling from a rearview mirror or not having a working license plate light.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo wrote in the memo Thursday that the change is an attempt to better utilize time, resources and operational effectiveness.

"By prioritizing the more serious traffic violations and no longer conducting routine traffic stops on the lesser violations mentioned above where it's the only offense, it will have minimal impact on current MPD traffic enforcement and can also help build trust with the communities we serve," Arradondo wrote.

RELATED: MPD Will No Longer Conduct Traffic Stops Solely For 'Lesser Violations,' Memo Says

"I believe this is a positive development. I would like to see more," said Teresa Nelson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. Nelson said traffic stops for low level offenses often involve people of color.

"The community has been asking for this for several years. There is data that show these stops have significant racial disparities and they destroy the relationship between police and community," said Nelson.

Those critical of police tactics have been pushing for changes going back to the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights in 2016. Critics continued that push in April after the police shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.

City leaders also believe the changes will help strengthen relationships between Minneapolis police and the community.

Nelson said she would like to see the changes go further, such as not pulling people over for loud mufflers or equipment violations.

"We ask police to do so many things. We're hearing that police in Minneapolis are overworked and there's not enough and they don't have enough resources. And so why would we be focusing on offenses that don't have any link to public safety," said Nelson. "There are a number of cities that are shifting to civilian traffic enforcement and I think that's something else the city should explore."

In his memo, Chief Arradondo said the city attorney's office will also stop prosecuting suspended license tickets, if the only reason for the suspension was a failure to pay a fine, and there was no other egregious behavior that would impact public safety.

On Twitter, Mayor Jacob Frey responded to the policy changes by saying, "Our team has been working with community and the MPD on reforms to traffic enforcement. We will soon end stops solely for offenses like expired tabs or items dangling from a mirror. Another concrete change moving us in the right direction."

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