LOCAL NEWS

Seattle inspector general calls for end to low-level traffic stops to avoid deadly outcomes

May 21, 2021, 6:41 AM | Updated: 11:27 am
shooting, Seattle, South Park, traffic stops...
Seattle police in South Park. (KIRO 7 TV, Brian Doerflinger )
(KIRO 7 TV, Brian Doerflinger )

Nationwide, there are some 20 million traffic stops every year. Researchers say they are the most common face-to-face encounter with police, according to Seattle Inspector General Lisa Judge, who is calling on interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz to end low-level traffic stops that she says are not worth the risk of tragic outcomes seen both to officers and community members.

Seattle Police Department details changes since George Floyd’s death

In a letter this week to Chief Diaz, Judge points to data from Mapping Police Violence, which tracks police-involved deaths, indicating that 11% of all people killed by police in 2019 were killed during traffic stops, and a disproportionate number of those – 32% – were Black. In that same year, six of 48 officer deaths happened during traffic stops.

Also in 2019, Seattle officers issued nearly 28,000 traffic infractions, each of which not only posed the risk of a potential tragic outcome, but further eroded trust between police and community, Judge argues.

She points to a handful of recent examples where stops for minor violations have ended tragically, including in Seattle on New Year’s Eve in 2018, when SPD officers shot and killed Iosia Faletogo, a 36-year-old Samoan man they had stopped for an unsafe lane change when a license-plate check on the car he was driving showed the registered owner had a suspended driver’s license.

Other examples Judge offered included:

  • On April 11, 2021, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop for expired plates in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
  • On Feb. 4, 2021, Darian Jarrot, a New Mexico State Police officer, was fatally shot during a traffic stop by a driver with an assault rifle.
  • On Sept. 27, 2019, Sandeep Dhaliwal, 42-years old and the first Sikh deputy in Harris County, Texas, was killed when a suspect shot him in the back of the head during a traffic stop for running a stop sign.
  • On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot during a traffic stop for a broken taillight in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Many in law enforcement acknowledge traffic stops are inherently dangerous, with officers approaching unknown persons, often in darkened vehicles, sometimes in remote areas, without knowing whether that person may try to harm them to avoid being arrested,” Judge wrote.

At the same time, she says low-level traffic stops have been shown to create less favorable opinion of cops, or flat out distrust, especially among communities of color.

OPA received over 19,000 complaints against SPD from protests in 2020

The deaths of officers during these incidents are just as unacceptable as those of the citizens, according to Judge, who explains in the letter: “Stopping a person is a significant infringement on civil liberty and should be reserved for instances when a person is engaged in criminal conduct that harms others.”

“Stops for government-created requirements like car tabs, with nothing but a potential monetary penalty, do not justify the risk to community or to officers,” she continued.

Judge makes clear her call to end these types of traffic stops in no way indicates a desire to end enforcement for things like reckless driving, DUI, and other dangerous actions. But, in the midst of an ongoing conversation about ways to reshape public safety and policing, she says it makes sense to limit these unnecessary interactions to avoid some of these tragic outcomes.

So far there’s been no comment on the letter from Chief Diaz.

Follow Hanna Scott on Twitter or email her here

Local News

1400 S 320th St, Federal Way, WA 98003 (courtesy of King County)...
MyNorthwest Staff

King County to repurpose homeless hotel to house Afghan refugees

$500,000 will assist Afghan refugees in the form of temporary housing and community services at Federal Way’s Extended Stay America.
1 day ago
Dow Constantine, King COunty vaccine mandate...
Nick Bowman

King County reaches deal with ‘majority’ of unions on vaccine mandate

Officials say they have reached an agreement with a "majority" of unions on a vaccine mandate for King County employees taking effect in October.
1 day ago
Sound Transit Northgate light rail...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Three new light rail stations to open in North Seattle next month

Commuters will soon be able to ride underground from Downtown Seattle to Northgate traffic-free when three new Link light rail stations open next month.
1 day ago
capital gains, legislative districts...
Nick Bowman

Washington Republicans, Democrats spar over redrawing of state’s legislative map

The redrawing of Washington's state's legislative districts already has Democrats and Republicans at odds, with less than 2 months to come to an accord.
1 day ago
Lenny Wilkens...
Dalton Day

Sonics’ Lenny Wilkens to be immortalized in namesake at Climate Pledge Arena

Seattle City Council voted to have “Lenny Wilkens Way" take the place of Thomas Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue North by Climate Pledge Arena.
1 day ago
washington hospitals, test, variants...
Kathryn Altena

UW researchers help develop test to detect COVID variants in hours, not weeks

Researchers with the University of Washington are helping to develop a test that can identify different variants of COVID-19 within two hours.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...
By Alaska Airlines

Calling all football fans: follow Russell on the road

Take your Northwest spirit that we’re known for on the road this season with Alaska Airlines.
...
By Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Seattle inspector general calls for end to low-level traffic stops to avoid deadly outcomes