Study: De-funding the Police Seems to Reduce Traffic Stops At Least

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

As you’re undoubtedly aware, there has been a lot of pressure to de-fund the police this year following the highly publicized death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The city became the epicenter of violent and peaceful protests demanding police departments be stripped of funding that has since spread across the rest of the United States. Some cities, including Minneapolis, have already agreed to cut their budgets or abolish departments entirely.

While most of the ramifications of these decisions would be off-topic for this particular forum, a study came out this week examining how on-road policing has been impacted. Unsurprisingly, the number of traffic stops in Minneapolis has declined immensely. Since May 25th, Bloomberg’s CityLab estimated the department had made 80 percent fewer stops each week.

Based on the data provided, traffic stops cratered in the city almost immediately after Floyd’s death — especially moving and equipment violations. However, actions taken in response to suspicious vehicles dropped by 24 percent while suspicious person stops (which don’t include automobiles) declined 39 percent. While the Minneapolis City Council has voted unanimously to approve a proposal to eliminate the city’s police department entirely, the plan to replace it with “a department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach” (sounds a lot like cops, frankly) has not yet been enacted.

So then, why have traffic stops slowed to a crawl if the regular PD has yet to be abolished?

From Bloomberg:

One explanation for the change in behavior could be the phenomenon of a “pullback” — police reducing their proactive activity in the wake of public criticism of their performance. In Minneapolis, officers are putting in requests to leave the department at higher rates than normal. One lawyer representing officers said he’s processing hundreds of requests from officers who want to leave the department, some citing post-traumatic stress disorder. Though the department budgeted for 888 sworn officers this year, MPD spokesperson John Elder told CityLab in August that there were closer to 830 officers at last count. The slowdown in stops might also be attributed to other factors, such as a potential change in police priorities, and the effects of Covid-19, which led to less activity on the street.

Either way, the trend could push Minneapolis farther from what criminal justice advocates say is an over-reliance on police to manage problems that would be better suited for unarmed, non-law enforcement officials. Amid calls to defund, dismantle or reimagine the police, portions of police budget cuts in Philadelphia and New York City came from removing some crossing guard duties from officers; Berkeley, California, council members moved this summer to create a new Department of Transportation that would handle most traffic stops in the police’s stead.

Ironically, New York City is worried that traffic will surge immensely once lockdown restrictions end. Ridership for mass transit was declining long before the pandemic and is assumed to remain heavily suppressed until months after a vaccine has been made widely available. It could result in a serious problem, though we doubt motorists will be heartbroken to learn they’ll be less likely to receive a ticket for going 10 over the posted limit or failing to notice a bum taillight. Critics are more likely to overlook that anyway and focus on the city’s elevated rates of violent crime over the summer or the presumption that funds have been squandered on a Manhattan Transit Authority nobody will use.

Things are more nuanced than that, obviously. But you get the idea.

The Bloomberg study goes on to examine presumed racial injustices and how best to combat them via various equity movements, but we’re once again moving well beyond the confines of what this website and author are about. However it did reference Stanford University’s Open Policing Project, which estimated that around 50,000 drivers and pedestrians are stopped by police on the daily. Assuming the de-funding movement continues picking up steam through 2020, that number could plummet as more cities adjust their budgets.

That would perhaps be less of a contentious issue if present-day rules didn’t leave so much up to police discretion. In most states, law enforcement can pull you over for basically any reason they want. Even those that have condemned Black Lives Matter and other movements aimed at abolishing or replacing local law enforcement have been in broad support of ending scattershot or brute-force policing tactics. Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Sheila Oliver has called the concept of police abolition idiotic and dangerous. But even she noted that police reform needed to be tackled seriously in the United States last week at the September 11th memorial in West Orange, NJ.

“I am on board with police reform,” Oliver said on the anniversary of the attacks. “But police are needed.”

[Image: Grindstone Media Group/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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16 of 138 comments
  • -Nate -Nate on Sep 16, 2020

    First & foremost, de funding police departments is so foolish and bad idea it makes my head spin ~ you have to have a serious disconnect with reality to even suggest this . Better training and the culling of those problem officers that are in every department and everyone in the department knows about is critical as is out side management of problems . You're almost all deathly afraid white folks who have no idea what it is to live in a "bad" area . The perceived need to be "heavily armed" proves this . Then you're also mostly cowardly open racists and prove it thusly when your composure slips : "So as long as the majority killing is done by negroes killing negroes in Chicago, NYC et al, who cares?" . I notice that 'negroes' is supposed to be spelled "Negroes" bus really . Lying and trying to revise history shows cowardice and lack of self respect along with clear knowledge that you're wrong in your stance, else why would you lie ? . Don't be surprised if trump wins or simply takes this election . -Nate

    • See 10 previous
    • Slavuta Slavuta on Sep 17, 2020

      @Arthur Dailey Do you think Hollywood and rap videos have no part in violent behavior? They've made it part of the culture, so, what do you expect? + incoming Latinos. These people come from most violent places on earth - Central and Latin Americas. What do you think they bring to America?

  • Markf Markf on Sep 16, 2020

    Interesting that all the anti-Cop rhetoric comes from 100% Dem controlled cities. Police Chiefs are appointed by Democrat Mayors and enforce policies created by the Mayor and city council, all Democrats. But somehow the cops are to blame for enforcing laws and policies created by Democrats. Chicago, Seattle, Portland, LA, Baltimore, Louisville all 100% Democrat controlled for generations but Police abuse and riots are Trump's fault.

    • See 2 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Sep 18, 2020

      That's stupid. No one has a problem with cops "enforcing laws". Do you really think that's what this about?

  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He never had a problem with GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!
  • 3-On-The-Tree I only buy Toyota cars. But if the Chinese cars are cheap people will buy them. They don’t care about the above issues that were stated in this forum.
  • Tassos Ford models are like dumb Hollywood movies. The original is far better than their god damned sequels. This was true of the Mustang vs the II, AND the Capri vs its second gen, and their BEV PORKER atrocities many decades later
  • Jeff I would not buy a Chinese car with the current global situation with Taiwan and Ukraine but I believe eventually China will become the number 1 producer of vehicles globally. Lou brought up a valid point that much of the content of new vehicles has components made in China. Even many of the tires that are sold are made in China. Try buying a small appliance or electronics that are not made in China. Many of the electric motors that go in power reclining furniture are made in China. Many auto parts especially replacement parts are made in China.