University of Arkansas law professor argues for removing police from traffic stops

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FILE – In this Nov. 12, 2012 file photo, a Sacramento Police Officer makes a traffic stop in Sacramento, Calif. The California Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling on police authority to conduct searches. The decision expected Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, will address police power to search people during traffic stops. At issue is whether police must first make an arrest for a traffic violation before conducting a search or can conduct a search beforehand as long as the person is later arrested, even for an unrelated crime. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A local law professor is arguing to remove police from traffic enforcement.

In a new study to be published in the Stanford Law Review, University of Arkansas law professor Jordan Blair Woods outlines a new legal framework for traffic enforcement, which would separate it from “critical police functions,” such as preventing and deterring crime, conducting criminal investigations and responding to emergencies.

Instead of having police enforce traffic laws, Woods proposes jurisdictions that would delegate most traffic enforcement to newly created traffic agencies. These public offices would operate independently from police departments and hire their own traffic monitors to conduct and oversee traffic enforcement, including stops, according to a release from the University of Arkansas on Thursday.

“Traffic stops are the most frequent interaction between police and civilians today,” said Woods, the faculty director of the Richard B. Atkinson LGBTQ Law & Policy Program at the University of Arkansas School of Law. “And because we know traffic enforcement is a common gateway for funneling over-policed and marginalized communities into the criminal justice system, these stops are a persistent source of racial and economic injustice.”

According to the UA’s release, previous research has shown that Black and Latinx motorists are disproportionately stopped by police for traffic violations, and, compared to white drivers, these groups are also disproportionately questioned, frisked, searched, cited and arrested during traffic stops.

An example of the reorganization that Woods outlines passed in July 2020, in the city of Berkeley, California, as part of a comprehensive plan for police reform.

Woods also argues that, aside to the social benefits, removing police from traffic enforcement and adopting traffic laws could put an end to “unfair and often subjective reliance on traffic ticket revenue to fund state and local budgets.”

You can download the full study, ‘Traffic Without the Police,’ at SSRN.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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