On April 11, 2021, 20-year-old Daunte Wright, known as a high-school mentor and loving father, was shot and killed by a police officer after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation. According to police, Daunte was driving with an expired registration tag on his license plate. The truth is, Daunte Wright is one of many young BIPOC individuals whose lives have been tragically cut short due to racist traffic enforcement policy, which allows for the routine use of the traffic code as a pretext to stop and investigate people. These pretext stops are often made on a hunch rather than on any kind of firm evidence of criminal activity.
The indignity of living in fear of police interaction is why for the past 18 months, working as a member of the Coalition to End Biased Stops, the GLIDE Foundation has been at the forefront of advocating that the San Francisco Police Commission curtail racially biased, low-level traffic stops, also known as pretext stops. This advocacy work came to fruition on January 11, when, in a historic win for racial justice, the San Francisco Police Commission voted 4 – 2 to pass Department General Order (DGO) 9.07, a policy which will limit the use of pretext stops and consent searches by the San Francisco. In its current form, as the DGO heads to the meet and confer process with the Police Officers Association, the new set of rules constitutes the most comprehensive policy in the country to address racially biased policing.
The new set of rules constitutes the most comprehensive policy in the country to address racially biased policing.
Police violence is not a new phenomenon in Black communities and studies of local traffic stop data, too, consistently present a bleak picture of policing: Black people make up 26% of all stops but just 5% of the population.
“For too many people of color, the generational trauma of these statistics has made the possibility of being killed during a traffic stop expected and normalized,” said Glide Memorial Church’s Minister Marvin K White. “People of color receive ‘pretext stop’ training from a young age. They’re told that it’s more important to get home alive than protest the stop. No one should have to grow up this way.”
To ensure community members are protected from the abuses and overreach of the criminal legal system, the Coalition to End Biased Stops advocated for a broader list of codes for which SFPD cannot initiate stops. Under DGO 9.07, SFPD will be restricted from making nine specific types of stops to minimize the racial disparities that occur in traffic stops across the city. These stops range from a failure to display a front license plate or proper registration tags, to a failure to signal while turning or changing lanes.
“With this vote, the San Francisco Police Commission has finally recognized the inefficiency of pretext stops and the disparate harms they inflict,” said Miguel Bustos, GLIDE’s Senior Director for the Center for Social Justice. “San Francisco’s communities of color deserve to be free from unjustifiable police scrutiny, and this policy represents an important step to align the Police Department with best practices that have already been successfully implemented in other jurisdictions across the country.”
From the beginning, this proposal has always been about the well-being of the San Francisco community. By adopting this proposal, the Police Commission sends a clear message that Black and Brown San Franciscans deserve to be free from unjustifiable police scrutiny and brutality. DGO 9.07 represents an important step to align the Department with best practices nationwide, and its successful implementation is necessary to ensuring that all San Franciscans, regardless of their outward identity, can thrive in dignity, safety, and peace.