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Seattle Inspector General Wants Police To End Traffic Stops For Minor Violations

Seattle, WA – Seattle’s inspector general has advised the city’s police chief he should prohibit officers from conducting most traffic stops in the interest of “racial fairness.”

Seattle Inspector General Lisa Judge issued her recommendation in a letter to Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz earlier this week, KOMO reported.

Judge referred to her push to end traffic stops for minor, non-dangerous, and civil violations as a “request.”

Discontinuing such stops is necessary to better ensure “the safety of both officers and the public and for racial fairness,” the inspector general opined.

Under Judge’s recommendation, Seattle police would only be allowed to pull drivers over for infractions such as driving while intoxicated, driving recklessly, and school zone violations, KOMO reported.

She argued that stopping motorists for burned-out taillights or expired license plates is a “significant infringement on civil liberty” and presents an unnecessary risk that could result in the death of the driver or the officer.

“Many in [the] community believe traffic stops are inherently dangerous for different reasons, especially for people of color,” Judge told Chief Diaz in the letter, according to KOMO.

“Many in law enforcement acknowledge traffic stops are inherently dangerous, with officers approaching unknown persons, often in darkened vehicles, sometimes in remote areas, without knowing whether that person may try to harm them to avoid being arrested,” she added.

Stopping vehicles “for government-created requirements like car tabs, with nothing but a potential monetary penalty, do not justify the risk to community or to officers,” Judge reasoned.

She said cutting down on interactions between law enforcement and people of color would also be beneficial, KOMO reported.

According to Judge, “research has consistently shown that Black and Latino experiences during traffic stops are different from those of white persons,” and those common face-to-face interactions can negatively impact how suspects and their fellow community members view law enforcement, KOMO reported.

“I have discussed these issues with others in city leadership and I believe there is support for exploring alternatives to traffic enforcement in ways that do not involve routine stops for minor violations,” Judge told Diaz in her “request” letter.

She also said she would welcome the opportunity to “discuss this critical community matter with you further,” KOMO reported.

Seattle King County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Carolyn Riley-Payne said she supports the inspector general’s suggestion, according to KCPQ.

“If we can eliminate those kinds of killings and negative kinds of interactions, then of course it will be a good idea,” Riley Payne said.

Judge said the issues she raised in the letter to Chief Diaz warrant an urgent response, PubliCola reported.

“Rather than taking to time for a painstaking audit, we have a practice of sending an ‘alert letter’ to SPD to get the ball rolling quickly,” the inspector general said.

Chief Diaz was not available to comment on the matter on Thursday, KCPQ reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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