Seattle police will no longer enforce certain minor violations, including cycling without a helmet
Failing to wear a bicycle helmet or driving with expired tabs will no longer be the primary reason a cyclist or motorist is pulled over by Seattle police officers, Acting Police Chief Adrian Diaz said in a letter Friday. to the city inspector general.
“These violations do not directly relate to the safety of other people on the roads, paths or sidewalks,” Diaz wrote.
The letter on the deprioritization of certain low-risk traffic violations, published on the Seattle Police Department online blotter, is addressed to Inspector General Lisa Judge and describes ongoing conversations between the judge’s office, elected officials, members of the police department, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Seattle Police Accountability Office, attorneys and others.
“You and your team have proven to be thought-provoking partners committed to improving public safety in Seattle, with a focus on fairness and efficiency. This is an example of how the government and oversight can and should work,” Diaz wrote.
Diaz said he “fully agrees” with the need to deprioritize low-risk public safety violations and that police officers will no longer consider these four minor violations as primary reasons for carrying out traffic stops:
■ Expired or missing vehicle registration (the sticker or “tab” displayed in the upper right corner of a license plate on the back of a vehicle);
■ Vehicles without front license plate (vehicles must always have a rear license plate);
■ Objects hanging from mirrors or cracked windshields (officers will continue to enforce visual obstructions such as snow, fog, non-transparent materials and broken windshields);
■ Violations of wearing a bicycle helmet.
The four violations do not affect street or sidewalk safety and the financial penalties for these violations may fall disproportionately on those who cannot pay, the chief’s letter says. However, the police can still apply these four offenses if another main offense leads to a traffic stop.
Diaz said the task force convened by the judge’s office also recommended not prioritizing primary enforcement for equipment violations (such as burnt-out taillights), but said in the letter that for the safety of pedestrians and drivers, the police can’t just drop these issues. The department is already working on equipment repairs for people who cannot afford them, the letter says.
In May, the judge sent Diaz a letter addressing violations of the city’s bicycle helmet law, noting concerns about disproportionate enforcement, particularly among black, Indigenous and homeless cyclists.
Discussions with the SPD, which included representatives from groups such as the ACLU, Central Seattle Greenways, Equal Rights Washington and Public Health – Seattle & King County, grew from there and resulted in the changes Diaz announced. Friday, the judge said in a phone interview. .
In February, for example, Central Seattle Greenways, which advocates for safe streets in the Central District and on Capitol Hill, addressed the issue of bicycle helmets on its website:
“We believe that unnecessary contact between police and people who ride bicycles should be minimized, and that Black, Indigenous and homeless cyclists should not bear the disproportionate burden of helmet citations in Seattle. Although helmets may reduce head injuries in some crashes, we are concerned that the helmet law does more harm than good. »
The judge said further changes were underway for what she described as an “ongoing project” to reduce traffic stops and potential negative interactions between officers and community members.
“I think it’s a way to start dealing with the disparity in enforcement,” she said. “This is the first series of offenses where there is no strong connection to security. [Not enforcing them is] won’t make people any less safe as pedestrians or motorists, but they will reduce negative interactions with a police officer and the danger that can sometimes erupt in these situations.