4.13. Police Accountability: Reducing Discretion

Tiffany Morey and Kate McLean

In 2022, the nonprofit organization “Mapping Police Violence” published a stunning statistic: from 2017 to early 2022, U.S. police had killed nearly 600 individuals in the course of traffic stops. While this number does not specifically highlight illegal or unjustified uses-of-force, it does illuminate a tremendous loss of life, which might be prevented through different policies. Specifically, several larger policies have begun testing new policies that reduce traffic stops for minor violations, such as a broken taillight, or failure to signal. These policies operate under the theory that reducing low-level police-citizen interactions will reduce situations that escalate unpredictably, leading to violence.

In December 2021, the Pittsburgh City Council passed an ordnance prohibiting police from pulling over citizens for “secondary violations,” such as tinted windows. While no data is yet available on the results of this bill (which went into effect in January 2022), the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police 2021 Annual Report showed a steady decline in traffic stops over time, before the bill was passed. Check out the report here, and see what you think. How do fewer traffic stops impact public safety?


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Introduction to the U.S. Criminal Justice System Copyright © 2019 by Tiffany Morey and Kate McLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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