|Date:||December 21, 2020|
By Maki Becker | December 17, 2020
Following news this week that the Buffalo Police Department is disbanding its traffic division, a local coalition of advocates for defunding the police are calling for the city to stop police enforcement of traffic altogether.
Instead, the Fair Fines + Fees Coalition suggested Thursday during a virtual video news conference that the city form a civilian traffic enforcement department whose members would be unarmed. The group also called for the city to transfer the police officers who were in the traffic division to other civilian jobs within City Hall or eliminate the positions completely. Members said the money saved could go toward traffic-calming design measures, such as creating protected bicycle lanes and making driving lanes narrower, which encourage safer, slower driving, as opposed to penalizing drivers.
"In order for us to shrink the size of the Buffalo Police Department we need to invest in other forms of safety and infrastructure for our people," said Phylicia Brown, executive director of Black Love Resists in the Rust, which describes itself as a "political and organizing home for Black and Brown folks in Buffalo."
On Tuesday, the department announced that it was eliminating its traffic unit, which has close to 50 officers. The officers are being reassigned to the five patrol districts in the city, police officials said.
The traffic division handled traffic enforcement and security at large events such as festivals, races and parades. But with no large public events planned for the foreseeable future due to Covid-19 restrictions, the department decided that the officers could be put to better use in the districts, Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said Tuesday.
The coalition, made up of members of groups including the WNY Law Center, Partnership for the Public Good, GObike Buffalo and WNY Peace Center, wants the city to curtail the use of ticketing and fines, which they say disproportionately and unfairly target Black and Brown people.
"Instead of extracting millions of dollars from the poorest communities, that money should go into just streets," said Jalonda Hill, a paralegal with the WNY Law Center.
They also say that transferring police officers to districts likely won't save much money.
"Outside organizations traditionally pay to secure traffic detail from the BPD for special events such as walks, runs, rides or parades. If organizations other than the BPD typically shoulder the cost of traffic control themselves, then where is the cost savings to the Department?" the coalition said in a statement.
Read the full article on the Buffalo News website here.