Virginia grants are only a fraction of the roughly $ 600 million the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sends to states each year. Lucia Sanchez, spokeswoman for the federal agency, said she neither encouraged nor demanded quotas or targets for grant recipients.
But a review of state grant applications found that the number of traffic stops is a common performance measure. In Arkansas, for example, the goal was “three vehicle stops per hour” during grant-funded patrols, while in Madison, SD, officers were to “get two quotes per hour of grant. “.
Indiana officials boasted in their 2014 annual report that seat belt law enforcement officers made an average of 3.26 stops per hour. One was in Hammond, where an officer on a grant-funded patrol arrested a black family and got into an argument with a passenger, Jamal Jones, after demanding he identify himself. The video shows officers break a car window and the firing of a Taser at Mr Jones, who, according to a lawsuit he later filed, attempted to retrieve a document to use for identification.
It was a ticket.
For all the billions spent promoting police ticket writing, there is little evidence that this has helped achieve the primary purpose of the grants: reducing fatal car crashes.
In 2019, there was 33,244 deaths crashes nationwide, up from 30,296 in 2010. Road safety experts say the targeted app works, but improvements in automotive technology and road engineering account for much of the progress since the 1970s and 1980s, when annual fatalities regularly exceeded 40,000.
Following the George Floyd protests, some municipalities and states are rethinking their approach to roadside checks. Berkeley, California, proposed to move away from the police, for the benefit of an unarmed civilian body; Virginia lawmakers have banned shutdowns triggered due to faulty taillights, tinted windows, and noisy exhaust.
The fallout from the Nazario affair moved Windsor to pursue paths to slow traffic “while reducing contact with police and citizens”, including electronic signs and rough tapes. Windsor Police also halted grant-funded patrols, saying it was “in the best interest of our agency and our community.”
When city council presented a new budget for the coming fiscal year, it forecasted increases in revenue from all major sources except one: traffic fines.
Arya Sundaram contributed reports. Kitty bennett contributed research.