Data tracking, police training, inclusivity, new programs needed
Statement for attribution to Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director,
Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Traffic deaths are a public health crisis in our country, with 36,560 lives taken in 2018, hundreds of thousands of serious injuries and millions more impacted. The mission of GHSA and its state members is the safety of everyone on the road. The state highway safety offices fund a wide range of countermeasures, including education, enforcement and community engagement, that are proven to help reduce roadway crashes, injuries and fatalities.
Deaths that are unjustified and tragic that occur at the hands of law enforcement, potentially involving traffic enforcement, remind us that excessive force, disparate treatment, and individual and systematic racism in policing threaten public safety and roadway safety. No highway safety program can survive without public trust. The law enforcement community is not exempt from the bias, prejudice and racism that have a long history in our nation. The persistence of these behaviors negatively impacts all Americans, including the honorable and professional law enforcement officers in our communities.
GHSA vehemently condemns racism in all its forms. Race, religion, sexual orientation or any other unique characteristic should never be the reason for a traffic stop, consciously or unconsciously, nor should these characteristics be used to determine who to ticket, who to test, who to search or who to arrest.
As a leader in traffic safety, GHSA is committed, through leadership, culture change, training and accountability, to contribute to reforms to achieve justice. GHSA offers the following recommendations:
Law enforcement organizations should strive to ensure agency demographics are commensurate with the communities they serve.
GHSA supports initiatives to collect and report standardized data about race in traffic enforcement. GHSA encourages research to more effectively collect and analyze this data, so states and communities can increase the use of this data for highway safety planning and law enforcement grant funding decisions.
GHSA encourages states to develop a framework to require law enforcement grant subrecipients to be taking proactive steps to root out bias in traffic stops, analyze and reform policies on use of force and officer intervention, when necessary, and to ensure high quality officer recruitment and ongoing training. GHSA supports the use of state or federal funding to pursue these objectives in traffic enforcement units.
GHSA urges federal, state and local governments and planning organizations to prioritize and incorporate perspectives from minorities, low-income communities and all others impacted by highway safety planning.
While GHSA urges reform, we continue to support the proven role of traffic enforcement and the wider criminal justice system to prevent crashes, deaths and injuries; stop dangerous driving; and hold drivers accountable for poor, often deadly, choices. GHSA also supports law enforcement officers who faithfully and equitably implement highway safety programs and risk their lives every day in a dangerous and demanding profession. GHSA vehemently condemns any unprovoked violence towards law enforcement.
Regarding traffic enforcement:
Rather than remove traffic enforcement from the highway safety equation, GHSA urges more federal, state and local investment in social and criminal justice programs to alleviate law enforcement burdens and prevent recidivism, particularly among impaired drivers.
GHSA supports the development and rigorous evaluation of effective public safety programs or technologies that can supplement existing and necessary traffic enforcement efforts conducted by sworn law enforcement officers.
In addition to policies and training on racism, bias, de-escalation, use of force and officer intervention, states and communities should also invest in empathy, stress management, early warning systems and mental health programs for officers who are often on the front lines of highway carnage and trauma.
Finally, GHSA supports empowering state and local leadership, law enforcement leadership and the criminal justice system to hold accountable police officers who have violated public trust.
GHSA is also committed to increasing diversity on our Executive Board, among our national staff and within our member offices. Last year, our Executive Board formed a work group to ensure GHSA is more inclusive and that our leadership looks more like the America we serve. We recently established a workgroup on equity in traffic enforcement to prioritize these issues for GHSA and its state members.
For this truly to be a period of reform and improvement, we commit to a long-term look at our practices and what highway safety offices individually and collectively can do to ensure fair and equitable traffic enforcement. GHSA affirms its commitment to ensure everyone on the road gets home safely.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter @GHSAHQ.