STOPS (Sensible Traffic Ordinances for Public Safety)

Who we are:

Vera is launching a project to work with localities across the country on a safer, fairer, and more equitable approach to traffic stops. Each participating jurisdiction will study, draft, and introduce legislation/policy to end or limit the use of law enforcement stops for low-level issues that do not affect traffic safety—such as broken taillights, dangling air fresheners, or expired vehicle registrations. Several cities including Philadelphia (PA) and Chapel Hill (NC) and states from Oregon to Virginia have already made such transformative changes. This project seeks to add many others to their ranks.

Why Stop the Stops?

Nationally, police stop more than 20 million motorists a year for alleged traffic violations. As research by Vera and others has confirmed, a significant number of these traffic stops are for minor violations that do not affect public safety, such as driving with a single broken taillight, expired or defective vehicle registrations, a missing inspection sticker, or excessive window tint.

Although all drivers may face the indignity and potential danger of a police encounter, people of color undoubtedly are at greater risk for being stopped and searched. Low-level traffic stops only exacerbate the problem, with more racial disparities than in safety-related stops.

Ending these low-level stops can promote public safety, community trust in the police, and road safety. Despite the often-stated reason for these stops, they very rarely result in the recovery of guns or other contraband. Instead, their frequency and their impact on communities of color compound distrust in government institutions such as police and prosecutors, which depend on the public’s cooperation to solve crimes. In addition, these stops increase the risk of physical, psychological, and economic harm, especially in Black communities. Finally, eliminating low-level stops allows police to prioritize enforcement of driver behavior that actually threatens public safety, such as dangerous driving.

Too many people have suffered loss of life or liberty from this unjust practice. Cities, counties, and states around the country are banning or limiting these stops, whether by passing laws or creating new police policy. Vera will share its own expertise—and that of people who have already enacted these changes—to create more momentum for this sensible, equitable sea change.

How to join us:

Vera will select partners through a short application, followed by a phone interview. Potential applicants should read our solicitation before applying. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with the cohort to start in late April 2023. Before deciding to apply, jurisdictions should feel free to reach out to Marta Nelson, director of government strategy, at mnelson@vera.org with any questions.

Read our Solicitation