Ann Arbor, MI – Drivers who commit so-called “minor” traffic violations in Ann Arbor no longer have to worry about being pulled over by police, thanks to a unanimous vote by the Ann Arbor City Council on Monday.
The council fully backed the “driving equality ordinance,” which blocks law enforcement officers from enforcing traffic violations such as expired registration, cracked taillights, or a cracked windshield, among other offenses, The Michigan Daily reported.
Councilmembers have accused Ann Arbor police of using such infractions to target people of color and those with disabilities.
“Historically, slave patrols in the antebellum south have the responsibility of apprehending runaway slaves and throwing them to jail,” Councilmember Cynthia Harrison declared during the meeting, according to The Michigan Daily.
“After the Civil War, these patrols were done under a new name, transforming it to what we recognize today as formal police departments,” Harrison continued. “We know that the history of American policing is not a relic of the past, but an ongoing narrative.”
According to the proposed ordinance, which was introduced by Harrison, “pretext stops are humiliating, traumatizing and can lead to broad distrust of law enforcement in communities of color and further exacerbate the generational trauma already suffered by families of color in our community,” MLive reported.
Former Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Alyshia Dyer, who is now running for the sheriff’s position, said she has always questioned why certain traffic laws exist and if they should really be enforced at all.
“When I worked as a deputy on patrol in Washtenaw County, I remember pulling somebody over as a new recruit, because their exhaust was loud,” the aspiring sheriff told The Michigan Daily. “I remember going up to the car and I remember seeing how scared they were of me because of this situation. And I said ‘Hey, I just pulled you over because your exhaust is loud,’ and then they went on very quickly to tell me how hard they were trying to fix their car and how they just did not have the money.”
“I remember walking back to my patrol car, and sitting there wondering ‘Why are we pulling people over for this?’” Dyer added.
Harrison said stopping police from enforcing some of these traffic laws could go a long way to helping mitigate racial disparities in traffic stops, The Michigan Daily reported.
The city council also threw its unanimous support behind the establishment and implementation of an unarmed crisis response team to handle mental health issues, homelessness, and substance abuse matters without law enforcement involvement.
“People with disabilities make up 33-50% of people who were killed over police use of force,” Councilmember Ayesha Ghazi Edwin chimed in. “It is important that we reduce the front engagement between the police and these individuals and other vulnerable community members.”
Both ordinances will go to second reading on July 6th and are expected to pass unanimously once again, Ann Arbor Police Chief Aimee Metzer said in a press release on Thursday.
In anticipation of those changes, Chief Metzer has ordered officers to stop pulling over or detaining anyone on the grounds outlined in the soon-to-be-passed ordinances.
“In an effort to continue building trust and providing equitable service to all, our department should be seeking ways to keep the community safe without the appearance of disparate treatment,” the chief wrote. “I believe it is the intention of every person within this department to provide fair and impartial service to the City of Ann Arbor. I believe we will be able to continue doing this within these new parameters.”