Lander Proposes Removing NYPD from Traffic Enforcement

Driver sitting on the street after car accident. Driver sitting on the street after car accident. Stock photo from 123rf

New York City Comptroller candidate and City Councilmember Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) held a press conference yesterday about his plans to curb traffic violence as comptroller.

The conference, held over Zoom and live-streamed, was aimed at making the public aware of Lander’s traffic safety plans. It was equally as much a discussion over the issue of traffic violence — such as car crashes, hit-and-runs and police violence during traffic stops — as it was a campaign presser.

“It’s a reminder that all our families need safe streets and how those families are ripped apart because our current approach isn’t working,” he said at his press conference, referencing the memorial for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which he had attended earlier in the day.

Lander currently has a proposal that he would like to implement if elected in 2021. His plan, “Transforming Traffic Safety: Safer Streets, With Less Policing,” includes taking traffic safety and monitoring out of the New York Police Department’s hands.

One key element of this plan is to transfer the Collision Investigation Squad from the NYPD to the Department of Transportation, which Lander and his campaign hope will lead to more prevention of traffic violence, rather than an investigation into the incidents after the fact.

Additionally, Lander wants to stop the NYPD from being the institution in charge of traffic stops and traffic control. The councilmember said he hopes this would reduce traffic-related racial discrimination.

Beyond implementing this new plan, Lander said that he wants to begin implementing the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, which he had proposed in the City Council back in February. The Council passed the legislation and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) signed it, but it has yet to be implemented.

The act “relies on speed camera data to identify repeat speeders and require them to go through a restorative justice driver safety course, or risk impoundment of their car,” according to the campaign.

However, the city hasn’t started using the act yet, since it received no funding in the 2021 city budget — despite the fact that it would have only cost around $1.6 million, compared to the NYPD’s $11 billion budget.

“For too long, we have shifted more and more roles to police officers, bloating their budgets while starving other public safety and public health programs of resources,” Lander said. “Traffic enforcement by police does little to achieve safer streets, but brings with it the risk of racial profiling and escalatory violence. Mayor de Blasio continues to spend $11 billion on policing, but he has failed to provide the mere $1.6 million to implement the Reckless Driver Accountability Act. We have better tools to reduce crashes, save lives, and prevent thousands of injuries every year.”

The press conference also featured remarks from City Council candidate for the 22nd district in Queens Tiffany CabánState Senator Julia Salazar (D- Bushwick, Cypress Hills, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East New York), traffic safety advocates and family members of people who died due to traffic violence.

“The reason that this platform is so important is that NYPD officers really should not even be enforcing the traffic law in this way,” Salazar said. “Too often, the law that exists is used to criminalize particularly Black and brown pedestrians. The majority of summons for minor infractions, like jaywalking, are issued to my constituents, to people in our communities, to Black and brown pedestrians.”

Both Caban and Salazar have endorsed Lander, and he has also endorsed both of them.

“I look forward to working with Brad in ensuring that we take police out of routine traffic enforcement and that we save lives,” Caban said. 

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