SAINT PAUL, Minn — To advance racial equity without negatively impacting public safety, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced in 2021 his office would no longer prosecute cases stemming from "non-public safety traffic stops," like equipment violations.
He said that those types of stops affect people of color disproportionately and result in very few serious charges.
"Well, today I'm just so proud to tell you that I think all indications are we're moving in the right direction. And we have not in any way negatively impacted public safety," Choi said.
Since then, Choi's office has received 12 cases from police agencies from those types of stops. He declined charges on 9 -- nearly all drug cases. And they still charged 3 weapons cases, because the policy has an exception for cases where the public is in danger.
"During that time period, there's just a total of 12 cases. I don't think that's a lot," Choi said.
The data compiled by the nonprofit Justice Innovation Lab also show that pretextual traffic, which community leaders say erodes the trust of police among people of color, has decreased the most among black drivers in Ramsey County -- a 66.5 percent decrease.
Ramsey County agencies such as Roseville, Maplewood, and St. Anthony Police participated in these directives.
Saint Paul Police Chief Axel Henry says his officers mostly support it.
"They support it. They like it. In fact, most of our officers don't like writing tickets for things they'd rather see you spend your money getting fixed. They don't want to be kind of the bully in the neighborhood," Henry said.
Agencies in Ramsey County have some alternatives in place, such as sending letters like these to the vehicle's registered owner to inform them of a tail light or license tab needing replacement.
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