San Francisco

SFPD Commission to Discuss Proposal to Reduce Low-Level Traffic Stops

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The San Francisco Police Commission is considering a proposal that would cut the number of reasons a police officer can pull most people over. The goal is to end what many call "pretext stops", when someone is pulled over for a minor infraction in hopes of finding something more sinister.

Ahead of Wednesday night hearing, police reform advocates gathered to say racially based traffic stops have gone on too long. Some shared stories of it happening to them.

They said this change needs to happen now and they will keep speaking up until it does.

“Being a Person of Color while driving, bicycling or walking should not, should not make you a target,” he said

Mano Raju, San Francisco’s Public Defender joined a group calling for an end to so-called pretext stops.

“They’re fishing expeditions to prolong the stop to investigate something wholly unrelated to the stop and these are biased,” he said.

Supporters said it often starts with being pulled over or stopped for low level offenses - like a broken tail light or failure to signal a lane change.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors president Shamann Walton is among those calling for them to end.

“We need to stop immediately, they’re terrifying extremely traumatizing and it’s unfortunate that this has been the status quo for black males and brown males,” he said.

Advocates said that the numbers don't lie and they show Black people are far more likely to be subject to a pretext stop.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association said that race isn't the factor.They simply pull over those who break the law.

They also say those low-level stops are responsible for helping get hundreds of illegal guns and other paraphasia off the street. They warn that taking them away is essentially offering criminals a free pass.

But advocates said the law has been twisted.

On Wednesday night, the police commission will hear a proposal that would dramatically limit the low-level stops. Reform advocates said it's a step in the right direction. But just one of many changes that need to be made to ensure racial equity in policing.

The San Francisco police chief issued a statement which said in part, “addressing traffic enforcement and limiting pretext stops with a balance in carrying out public safety duties is critical to breaking any potential patterns of bias police and impacts to communities of color.”

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