June 19, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A street safety advocacy group is calling on the mayor to redistribute a portion of the NYPD budget to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and shift traffic enforcement away from police officers.
Transportation Alternatives released a report Friday in which its members argue that police enforcement of traffic laws are ineffective and put people of color at risk.
“It has become abundantly clear that the NYPD’s approach to traffic safety is not working, especially for New Yorkers of color,” said Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Marco Conner DiAquoi.
The group said funds from the NYPD’s nearly $6 billion budget would better serve New Yorkers if invested into street redesign and non-contact enforcement measures, like traffic cameras.
The group listed several recommendations for the city in the report.
Transportation Alternatives suggested reallocating “significant portions” of the NYPD traffic budget to invest in “self-enforcing” street redesigns to slow traffic speeds and reduce the need for parking enforcement.
The organization said the money should be spent on automated enforcement such as bus lane, red light and speed cameras. The technology is nondiscriminatory whereas police officers, according to the group, stop people of color for minor traffic infractions much more frequently than their white counterparts.
Nearly 90 percent of NYPD summonses for jaywalks were given to Black and Hispanic New Yorkers last year, according to an analysis of 316 summons by Streetsblog.
The group said the city should form a new unit to respond to traffic collisions, made up of the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, the Health Department and the DOT.
Transportation Alternatives also suggested that the city roll back the 2019 expansion of transit police officers in coordination with the MTA. Instead, a new multi-agency unit should be created with the Health Department, Department of Homeless Services, the DOT and local hospitals.
The advocacy group said these measures would have more success reducing traffic crashes and saving lives than armed police enforcement
The City Council has proposed a $1 billion cut from the NYPD’s budget and several elected officials agreed with the suggestions brought forward by Transportation Alternatives.
“The police have no expertise in assuring vehicular and pedestrian safety,” Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said in a statement. “Instead, too often we have seen targeted enforcement against black and brown cyclists and drivers that is discriminatory and does little to actually keep our streets safe for those using them.”
Van Bramer said police officers should be removed from traffic enforcement.
“We need to get the police out of traffic enforcement and move this important function into an agency that’s primary mission is the work of street safety.”
Astoria Council Member Costa Constantinides said it’s time to end police targeting of Black and brown men in traffic enforcement.
“The era of using the NYPD as a Band-Aid to street safety has to come to an end,” he said.