CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (WHDH) - The City of Cambridge is considering having unarmed civilians conduct traffic stops as opposed to police.
Two city councilors submitted an order Monday, calling for the city manager to look into “transferring primary traffic enforcement responsibilities from the Cambridge Police Department to unarmed, trained enforcement personnel in the Traffic & Parking Department, Department of Public Works, Health & Human Services, or another suitable department.”
This comes in light of nationwide demands for racial justice following the death of George Floyd while he was in Minneapolis police custody.
The city councilors say that routine traffic stops impact drivers of color more than white drivers and that having trained city employees conduct them would reduce the possibility of violence.
“I don’t hate the idea,” one man said “If they work for the city. I think I prefer traffic stops to happen without firearms involved.”
Police officers would still be responsible for apprehending known criminals and dangerous or erratic drivers that the city councilors say “clearly goes beyond routine traffic enforcement.”
“That would be kind of crazy,” said Jay Shaugnessy, a 28-year veteran of the Parking Enforcement Department. He writes tickets for how people are parked. Not how they’re driving and he said he would like it to stay that way. “Going up to some of these cars, they got the black windows, you don’t know what you’re going up against. It’s a little scary.”
Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville Bard, Jr. released a statement that read, “In my opinion, the order runs afoul of Massachusetts’ General Law and shows a lack of forethought.”
Chelsea Police Chief and President of the Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association Brian Kyes says this proposal poses a significant risk, adding that “there is never anything routine in stopping a car for a traffic violation.”
“Hundreds of Police Officers across the country have been killed over the years during traffic stops,” he said in a statement. “This proposal would absolutely put individuals in harm’s way and is incredibly dangerous.
The city councilors have called on the city manager to report back to the council on this matter as soon as possible.
As for Mayor Sumbal Siddiqui, she said:
“When a policy comes our way and my way, I’m never like this is bogus. You have to research and think about it, the pros and the cons and weigh that. But above all, is it legal. I’m an attorney, that’s what I will ask.”
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