Investment in Public Transit Could Reduce the Need for Police Traffic Enforcement

In Nick Demarsh and Rick Banks' opinion, defunding the police requires cities to reconsider car culture.

2 minute read

August 14, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Police Enfocement

BravoKiloVideo / Shutterstock

Nick Demarsh and Rick Banks say that the conversation about police defunding or abolition requires consideration of the role of the personal vehicle in American life. On average, police spend 15% of their time on traffic enforcement, they say. Investing in infrastructure that could reduce the need for traffic enforcement is a great step toward divesting from police and avoiding situations that are disproportionately dangerous for Black and brown Americans, opine Demarsh and Banks:

If we understand the relation of policing and cars and the antidote – public transit – re-investing funding from police agencies to transit systems demonstrates a possible remedy to the dual threat of violence from policing and cars. By transitioning resources from police departments to transit agencies, cities could both reduce the need to protect communities from reckless driving and increase racial equity in our cities.

The article draws a poignant connection between increase in policing and the mass incarceration of the prison industrial complex. Similarly, Demarsh and Banks point to the rise of the personal vehicle as an ultimate source of police enforcement hours and the construction of freeways as destructive forces in communities of color. 

sets out a reminder of this history of police by the desire to enforce mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex, drawing connections between the rise of the police force with the rise of the personal vehicle. 

"Understanding the history of the growth of policing during the rise of the car provides important insight for our discussion about the role of policing today," remind Demarsh and Banks, arguing for the allocation of police budget to public transit investment.

Recognizing the potential of increased policing on transit (ACLU found that 9 of 10 Cleveland BRT Healthline stops were of Black riders), Demarsh and Banks suggest that free fare could reduce the need for police and be funded by police department budgets. 

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