Philadelphia Bars Cops From Pulling Over Drivers For Minor Traffic Violations

Minor violations include things like having a broken taillight.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 14: A police officer monitors activity near a residence while responding to a shooting on August 14, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least six police officers were reportedly wounded in an hours-long standoff with a gunman that prompted a massive law enforcement response in the city's Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Philadelphia is barring police from pulling over drivers who have committed only a minor traffic violation, such as having a broken taillight.

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia City Council passed a pair of bills intended to address the “tension” between police and the community by minimizing negative interactions with cops during minor traffic stops, which some say disproportionately impact minorities. One of the bills also creates a public database of all traffic stops.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the two bills on Wednesday, according to The Hill. The legislation is set to go into effect 120 days after it is signed.

“These bills end the traffic stops that promote discrimination while keeping the traffic stops that promote public safety,” the city council said in a statement on October 14, the day the bills were passed. “This approach seeks to redirect police time and resources towards keeping Philadelphians safe while removing negative interactions that widen the divide and perpetuate mistrust.”

One of the “Driving Equality” bills amended the city’s Traffic Code to reclassify seven offenses as “secondary violations.” Secondary violations include things like broken taillights or brake lights, bumper issues, improperly displayed registration stickers, and inspection violations.

The city council passed the minor traffic violations bill 14 to 2.

Police will still be allowed to pull over drivers for “primary violations,” violations that are a threat to public safety.

The second bill mandates that police create a public database with information about all traffic stops, updating it at least monthly. That bill passed 15 to 1.

The bills were introduced earlier this year by Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who expressed his gratitude to fellow council members for their votes to pass them this month.

“I am humbled by every person who told my office of the humiliation and trauma experienced in some of these traffic stops,” Thomas said in a statement.

“To many people who look like me, a traffic stop is a rite of passage – we pick out cars, we determine routes, we plan our social interactions around the fact that it is likely that we will be pulled over by police. By removing the traffic stops that promote discrimination rather than public safety, City Council has made our streets safer and more equitable. With this vote, I breathe a sigh of relief that my sons and my friends’ children will grow up in a city where being pulled over is not a rite of passage but a measure of the safety of your driving and vehicle, regardless of the skin color of the driver.”

The Philadelphia police department said in a statement that it supports the legislation.

“We believe this is a fair and balanced approach to addressing racial disparity without compromising public safety,” the department said. “This modified enforcement model for car stops furthers the Department’s priority of addressing the issue of racial disparity in the Department’s investigative stops and complements the Department’s efforts to address these same issues in pedestrian stops.”

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