Will the NYPD End Traffic Stops?

New York State Attorney General Letitia James has repeatedly recommended that the New York Police Department stop making routine traffic stops. James, a special prosecutor who investigates certain police shootings, came to this recommendation after her work on the Allan Feliz case.  

In October 2019, New Yorker Allan Feliz was killed in a fatal police shooting following a traffic stop for a seat belt violation. AG James contends that simple traffic stops for minor infractions tend to lead to unnecessary violence that may end in fatalities. Although James’ office investigation concluded that the NYPD was justified in their use of force in the Feliz case, she still contends that his death would not have occurred if he hadn’t been stopped by the police in the first place. Thus, in order to help lessen these instances of escalated violence, her ideal solution to this problem is that the NYPD should stop conducting traffic stops for minor traffic violations.  

The Proposed Alternative to NY Traffic Stops

Rather than completely demanding that cops entirely refrain from traffic stops, James has made a compromise in the form of suggestions that cops can follow during traffic stops. Here are her five recommendations: 

  • When conducting a stop, officers should ensure that the vehicle can’t be moved throughout the encounter.
  • Officers should consider checking the driver’s license and registration at a safe distance from the vehicle.
  • During a car stop, an officer shouldn’t enter a vehicle over which the driver has dominion and control.
  • NYPD should modify its must-arrest policy for warrants for failing to appear on a summons, and for bench warrants on violations discovered during a car stop.
  • All officers should follow proper car protocols as set forth in the NYPD Vehicle Stop Manual. 

The Attorney General’s position has received a mixed response. With on-going tensions between communities of color and the police, some supporters think that eliminating these type of traffic stops this will help decrease the instances of police brutality and officer-involved shootings– events that disproportionately impact the African American and Latino communities. Supporters also argue that these procedures will make streets safer from crashes. 

Conversely, critics think that eliminating stops for minor infractions are missed opportunities: There are multiple examples of how these stops have led to capturing major criminals. Some believe that traffic stops are a necessary form of policing. Additionally, the use of cameras can assist with de-escalation. 

Regardless of how people feel about James’ idea, it is unlikely to come to fruition. At least it probably won’t happen anytime soon. Following the police killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that preceded it, Berkeley, California, has become the only city in the U.S. so far to make substantial steps to remove police from traffic enforcement.  

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

It looks like the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies will be conducting traffic stops for some time to come, despite some interest in reassessing the status quo. If you were stopped by the police and arrested, then there are a lot of issues that you must deal with. If your encounter with the police was such that you are now facing resisting arrest charges, then it adds even more worries. That’s why it’s a good idea to retain skilled legal professionals like MOWK criminal lawyers. Contact us today to get started on your case.