Daunte Wright's death prompts discussion over traffic stops in Minneapolis

Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, is prompting conversation from leaders in the Twin Cities metro about traffic stops in general.

Thursday night, the issue was one of the main topics discussed at the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission meeting.

"Traffic stops and pretext stops have been on my mind for a long time – there was a report out last summer actually about how disproportionate traffic stops are in the City of Minneapolis," said Abigail Cerra, the commissioner of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission.

Cerra says that’s why certain traffic stops, the kind that aren’t putting the public in extreme danger, like a light out over a license plate or something hanging from a rearview mirror, need to be discussed. In Wright's case, police say he was initially pulled over for expired tags and officers also noted he had an air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror.

"These traffic stops are so disproportional and so disproportionately dangerous to people of color, I can’t look away I just have to talk about it," said Cerra.

At Thursday’s meeting, Hennepin County Public Defender Jay Wong presented his research from last summer. It showed Black and East African residents are getting pulled over at much higher rates than white residents in Minneapolis for moving and equipment violations.

"To some degree, it is a level of harassment that individuals feel throughout the city," said Wong.

The numbers, pulled from the city’s public dashboard, show just over 56% of drivers pulled over last year were Black or East African – compared to just over 26% of white drivers. The disparity continued when it came to the person or vehicle being searched after the stop.

"We’re talking 10 to 20 times more often that Black and East African drivers are being searched after equipment violations than white drivers," said Wong.

Commissioner Cerra says the hope is that the city might instead limit the authority of officers to pull over people for these secondary offenses and issue a warning letter instead.

"Until there’s a fix, I don’t think we can allow these kinds of stops," she said. "We just can’t allow people of color to be targeted in this way."

The public safety bill recently passed by the Minnesota House contains a traffic safety bill that addresses this issue. Cerra told FOX 9 if the bill doesn't pass at the state level, the City of Minneapolis would be free to put their own traffic stop rule in place.