Berkeley city leaders early Wednesday voted for a comprehensive police reform plan, including removing traffic stops from the Police Department's jurisdiction, making it one of the first U.S. cities to do so.
The Berkeley City Council took up five proposals, one of which calls for a new department to be in charge of making traffic stops and issuing citations to motorists. The five separate proposals, which also included an audit of police calls and response and the creation of specialized care unit to handle non-police trauma calls, were lumped into one omnibus measure that passed.
One proposal that wasn't included in the measure was cutting the police department's budget in half.
The council meeting that started Tuesday evening ran into the early morning hours Wednesday.
Activists and residents have urged the city's leaders to defund the Police Department and re-imagine public safety, citing recent conversations surrounding race and racial inequality as the catalyst for change.
The idea behind the traffic stop proposal is for the city to create a Department of Transportation comprised of civil servants that would manage traffic and parking enforcement, crossing guards and collision response, shifting those duties away from Berkeley PD.
The proposal's authors say the move would reduce the need for interaction with civilians and ensure a lens of racial justice.
"I feel they abuse their privileges and really harm us rather than protect us, so I think everything Berkeley is doing to cut back on funding and those kinds of things, I’m totally in favor of," resident John Drinnon said.
"It’s fine to rethink and for everyone to talk about and to be aware of what’s going on," resident Nan Carter said. "I think that’s good for everybody, including the police, because they may be too involved in social service stuff, and maybe they wouldn’t like to be involved that way. So I think it's a long process, but everyone should be talking about it. It's fine with me for people to be talking about it."
Those who drafted the proposal do acknowledge the restructuring would require significant up-front costs, though the exact costs were not provided.