Traffic Wardens

I’m not the first person to suggest this, but one aspect of reforming the police should be rethinking what jobs actually need to be done by the police. In some cases, we’re asking the police to do jobs that could better be done by others. Handing domestic complaints and mental health crises are two frequently-cited examples. Social workers and counselors may be more appropriate for those kinds of situations. Similarly, in light of recent murders that occurred following traffic stops, people are considering whether we really need to use the police to enforce things like broken headlights or minor traffic violations.

Maybe unarmed traffic wardens would do a better job. Things like expired tags or a turn signal that’s not working could probably be handled by a picture and a mailed ticket rather than a stop, at least in the first instance. (We already use that system for failure to stop at traffic lights.) There are things that call for a traffic stop such as drunk driving or serious speeding. That’s because those behaviors can immediately endanger others. But even those stops could be handled by traffic wardens. If a driver won’t pull over, THEN you can get the police involved. But the vast majority of people would stop, especially if that meant dealing with unarmed traffic wardens rather than the police.

Getting police out of the traffic-stopping business would have other benefits. For too long, making a traffic stop and then “thinking they smelled pot” has been an excuse for police to hassle and arrest African Americans. Especially as we move towards legalizing pot, that nonsense needs to stop. And taking the police out of the business of enforcing minor traffic laws would allow them to do the jobs that actually require police — investigating murders, rapes, and robberies.

In general, patriarchy assumes that every situation requires a use of force, implied or actual. But many situations can be handled with a mix of modern technology and professionalism, rather than force.

Picture found here.

3 responses to “Traffic Wardens

  1. Relatedly, the Post had an op-ed today about how Derek Chauvin and officers like him are motivated both by racism and by toxic masculinity, a perspective that I found enlightening. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/04/12/how-toxic-masculinity-helped-kill-george-floyd/

  2. Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

  3. kathleenacurran

    these ideas make a lot of sense. thank you.

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