By Hellen Zaboulani
City councilman Brad Lander says city police should no longer be responsible for handling traffic enforcement.
On Sunday, the lawmaker who represents the 39th District in Brooklyn including Park Slope, and who is also a contender for the comptroller’s job, made the proposal arguing that the city Department of Transportation should take charge over the rules of the road. As reported by the NY Post, he said at a press conference that police officers have a history of racial profiling and of granting motorists leniencies for dangerous acts. “For too long, we have shifted more and more roles to police officers, bloating their budgets while starving the republic safety and public health programs and resources,” said Lander, who is the co-founder of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. “Traffic enforcement by police does little to achieve safer streets, but brings with it the risk of racial profiling and escalatory violence.”
Lander’s pitch follows calls to defund the NYPD, which escalated in the summer and which led to budget cuts for the police department. Lander says that cops should give up their undertaking to regulate traffic violations, and that instead we should rely on automated traffic cameras to catch speeding, red light violations, broken tail lights, and even failure to wear a seatbelt. Police would still be called to action in cases of dangerous conduct such as drunk driving, drag racing or road rage, Lander said.
As per the Post, Lander’s plan would shift the responsibilities of the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad over to the DOT, to investigate traffic fatalities and major crashes. “Their investigations rarely lead to charges even when driver culpability is clear,” says Lander’s web site, referring to the police CIS squad. “Their crash reports are kept hidden away from the public.”
The city has already scrapped the NYPD’s Traffic Congestion Mitigation unit in July, which formerly handled moving violations, calling the unit “redundant.” Lander is also calling on the city to expand his Reckless Driver Accountability Act approved this year, to raise penalties against repeat traffic offenders.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to the Post’s request for comment. In a statement on Sunday, the NYPD said it would “continue to work with the City Council toward our shared goal of enhancing public safety.” “This department remains committed to the safety of all New Yorkers and fostering stronger relationships with each community we serve,” said the statement. “We strongly disagree with the Councilman’s recommendation to cease conducting traffic enforcement.”