The Governors Highway Safety Association has come out against racism and issued a new set of recommendations members can implement to ensure fair enforcement of traffic laws. The group also hopes to add more diversity to its board.
The Governors Highway Safety Association, whose members include state agencies that help keep highways safe—in part through traffic enforcement, has seen the growing turmoil surrounding bias in law enforcement following George Floyd’s death.
Recognizing it needed to address this issue, GHSA recently condemned racism, saying it has no place in traffic enforcement, and offered recommendations to help members reduce bias in their interactions.
GHSA felt it important to take a strong stand against racism and bias because it affects how their members are seen as they promote highway safety through traffic enforcement. “The current narrative is changing how people view law enforcement,” said Russ Martin, GHSA senior director of policy and government relations. “We think traffic enforcement is useful in saving lives.”
The recommendations GHSA made include asking law enforcement agencies to try to get their staff makeup to reflect the demographics of the community; improving data collection on race in traffic stops; developing a framework to allow law enforcement to root out bias and reform policies; training on racism, bias, de-escalation, use of force, and officer intervention; investing in empathy, stress management, early warning systems, and mental health programs for officers who are often on the front lines and witness highway carnage and trauma; and holding officers who violate the public trust accountable.
GHSA hopes member agencies will adopt some of these recommendations as they move forward. “It’s a list of best practices as we see them,” Martin said. “This is the beginning of a long-term process. Some of the things can be done quickly, and some will take some time and money.”
In addition to the recommendations for member agencies, GHSA also wants to improve diversity on its board. The group has a task force looking at the issue and plans to examine its board structure in the coming months.
“We want to be moving in the right direction in having more diverse viewpoints, and, to the extent possible, trying to look within our broader membership and see, is there a talent we haven’t tapped into,” Martin said. “We want to be casting a wider net than we have been. We also want to look and see how other boards are structured. We want to make sure our association is current with the prevailing trends.”
GHSA’s goal with the recommendations is that highways be equitably patrolled and safe for everyone involved. “The issue of equity in enforcement is a very important to us, given our relationship to traffic enforcement,” Martin said. “We want to make sure everyone on the road gets home safely—whether a police officer or a motorist.”