Minneapolis police can give out repair vouchers, not tickets

Published 5:02 pm Thursday, January 30, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS — Police officers in Minneapolis are being given the option to hand out repair vouchers, rather than tickets, to motorists with minor vehicle defects in a policy change aimed in part at easing racial disparities in traffic stops.

Chief Medaria Arradondo announced the policy change Wednesday, the Star Tribune reported.

Officers can issue drivers a voucher from the Lights On! program financed by the nonprofit group MicroGrants, an organization that partners with local organizations to promote economic self-sufficiency among lower-income residents. The vouchers can be redeemed at participating auto shops for such things as replacing a bulb in a broken taillight.

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The new guidelines include exceptions in which equipment violations result in a crash or harm to another individual. Motorists with outstanding warrants or who have committed another crime can still be arrested after being pulled over.

The changes comes almost a year after a community forum, in which residents aired their frustrations over what they saw as years of harassment and discrimination at the hands of police. A City Hall debate about temporarily prohibiting certain traffic stops followed, with some council members viewing the move as a way to ease the racial disparities in traffic stop rates. But others worried that it would only harm residents in poorer neighborhoods, where gun violence is prevalent.

More than half of motorists stopped citywide for equipment violations were black, according to a 2018 Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office report. The study found that in north Minneapolis, where neighborhoods are ethnically diverse, 80 percent of drivers pulled over were black and 12 percent were white.

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office also announced this week that it is joining the voucher program.