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Minneapolis police, city attorney will reduce enforcement of select low-level traffic violations

The new policy applies only in specific situations, and is meant to address racial disparities.

Traffic stops and prosecutions for a select set of low-level traffic offenses will cease in the city of Minneapolis, new measures officials say will help address racial inequities.

The policy changes first came to light from an internal memo Minneapolis Chief Medaria Arradondo sent Thursday, later obtained by multiple news outlets. Arradondo, citing the "continued importance of examining how we can better utilize time, resources and operational effectiveness," wrote the police department will stop conducting traffic stops solely for three offenses: Expired tabs, an item dangling from a mirror, or not having a working license plate light.

"By prioritizing the more serious traffic violations and no longer conducting routine traffic stops on the lesser violations mentioned above where it's the only offense, it will have minimal impact on current MPD traffic enforcement and can also help build trust with the communities we serve," Arradondo explained.

Bring Me The News has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department for more information.

At the same time, the City Attorney's Office confirmed to Bring Me The News it will stop prosecuting tickets related to driving after suspension, a measure Arradondo also noted in his memo. This new policy applies only if the sole reason for the suspension was a failure to pay fines or fees, and only if the incident did not involve a crash or dangerous driving behavior. It is effective immediately.

City Attorney Jim Rowader, in a statement, called it " just one small step in addressing the disparities around traffic stops while freeing up resources to focus on offenses that have a direct impact public safety."

The City Attorney's Office will also review all open cases that charge an individual for driving after suspension, and will dismiss those that meet the new criteria.

"It is in everyone’s best interests to have licensed and insured drivers on our roads," Rowader said. "By dismissing these cases we eliminate additional charges that often drive up insurance rates and make auto insurance unaffordable for many people."

These types of traffic stops for low-level offenses are often referred to as "pretextual," Pew explains, meaning they're used as a means to investigate the potential of other, more serious crimes. Authorities argue they are a helpful tool, but critics, such as the ACLU of Minnesota, say these stops can be used by some officers to target minorities.

Pretextual stops became topic of conversation following the police shooting of Daunte Wright who, while on the phone with his mother just prior to his death, said police had pulled him over for an air freshener hanging from his mirror. (Police later said it was for expired tabs.)

Minnesota DFL lawmakers pushed for a ban on pretextual stops during the most recent legislative session, but that demand never made it into the public safety budget bill that was passed during the summer's special session.

Rowader explained these offenses will still be enforced — the policy changes simply mean they cannot be the "primary" reason for a traffic stop.

"Whenever a vehicle with expired tabs is stopped for speeding, red light running or any other public safety reason, the expired tabs charge can and should be added to the citation," he said, adding parked vehicles with expired tabs can still be cited.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, on Twitter, called the revised policies a "concrete change moving us in the right direction." 

Residents of the city will vote in November whether to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety.

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