Minneapolis looks to establish unarmed traffic enforcement division

Council President Lisa Bender said the idea has gained renewed interest because of the recent shooting of Daunte Wright.

Minneapolis Police Department/Facebook

The Minneapolis City Council gave its initial approval Friday to a proposal to create an unarmed “Traffic Safety Division” outside the police department.

Approved in a unanimous vote, the motion directs city staff to “design and develop recommendations for the creation of an unarmed Traffic Safety Division to be housed in a department outside of the Police Department.”

“This new division is to be responsible for enforcement, education, and other activities that increase traffic safety,” states the staff direction, which will head to the Public Health and Safety Committee for further discussion.

The new division would help “eliminate racial disparities in traffic enforcement” and earn back the “trust of communities who have been harmed by previous traffic enforcement practices,” according to the document.

Council President Lisa Bender said the idea has gained renewed interest because of the recent shooting of Daunte Wright by a Brooklyn Center police officer. Wright was pulled over for expired tabs, but detained when police discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest on a weapons charge.

“Traditional traffic enforcement with armed sworn officers has not only been ineffective in establishing traffic safety, but also has produced racially disparate outcomes, caused significant harm to BIPOC communities, and has increased significant distrust between BIPOC community members and armed law enforcement,” added Council Member Phillipe Cunningham.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott also expressed support for the idea of unarmed traffic enforcement, saying at a press conference last week that police don’t need weapons every time they pull someone over.

The proposal approved Friday directs the Office of Performance and Innovation to report back with its recommendations by the end of June.

The Minneapolis City Council is still in the process of replacing its battered police department with a new “Department of Public Safety,” which would include a “Division of Law Enforcement.”