This Essay, written for the Commentary Issue on police and prison abolition, draws on principles of postmodern feminist and queer theory to evaluate the dominance of a police-reliant, “one-size-fits-all” model of traffic enforcement in the United States. Traffic stops are currently the most common interaction between police and civilians in the United States and are a persistent source of racial and economic injustice. This Essay theorizes the dominance of a police-reliant, one-size-fits-all model of traffic enforcement in terms of metanarratives of public order and public safety. As discussed, these metanarratives shape the structure of police agencies, the nature of the police function, and police behavior with regard to traffic. Individuals and societal institutions also internalize these metanarratives in ways that normalize the idea that traffic enforcement is impossible without the police.
In shaping our political and social perceptions of what is possible in the traffic space, metanarratives of public order and public safety sustain and justify dominant power structures that subjugate and control over-policed and over-criminalized populations and ignore their lived experiences. This Essay begins a conversation that illuminates how in distrusting and deconstructing metanarratives, postmodern feminist and queer theories offer conceptual tools to move beyond a police-reliant, one-size-fits-all model of traffic enforcement. Specifically, these theories offer support for social movements that (1) challenge metanarratives of public order and public safety that sustain primary reliance on police in traffic enforcement, and (2)reimagine the traffic space through competing interpretations of public order and public safety that are grounded in the perspectives and experiences of over-policed and overcriminalized communities
Woods, Jordan Blair, "Metanarratives of Traffic Policing" (2021). Connecticut Law Review. 505.