Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign legislation that will ban police from making traffic stops for low-level infractions because studies showed minorities were being disproportionately targeted.
The Philadelphia City Council passed the “Driving Equality Bill” on Oct. 14 which categorized motor vehicle code violations as “primary violations” and “secondary violations,” WSVN reported.
Under the bill, which was authored by Philadelphia City Councilman Isaiah Thomas, officers may stop drivers who make primary violations in the name of public safety.
But police will no longer be permitted to stop drivers for traffic violations that are considered secondary, WSVN reported.
The list of secondary violations included bumper issues, minor obstructions, broken lights, and improperly displayed license plates.
The city council also passed companion bill the same day that mandated the creation of a public database of traffic stops that users can search for information about the alleged infraction, the New York Post reported.
“These bills end the traffic stops that promote discrimination while keeping the traffic stops that promote public safety,” Thomas’ office said in a press release, according to WSVN. “This approach seeks to redirect police time and resources towards keeping Philadelphians safe while removing negative interactions that widen the divide and perpetuate mistrust.”
The mayor is expected to sign the legislation into law this week.
“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. “This approach seeks to redirect police time and resources towards keeping Philadelphians safe while removing negative interactions that widen the divide and perpetuate mistrust.”
About 97 percent of the traffic stops made in Philadelphia are for low-level infractions, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Data showed that 72 percent of the drivers stopped for vehicle code violations over a recent one-year timeframe were black.
But only 48 percent of Philadelphia’s population is black, according to the councilman who authored the Driving Equality Bill, WSVN reported.
Low-income drivers are more likely to have violations related to their vehicle equipment.
“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,” Thomas said.
He said city attorneys had determined the bill was legally sound because it doesn’t do away with violations, it just changed the manner in which they would be enforced, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Thomas said law enforcement officers will still be able to mail infractions to drivers for secondary violations such as improperly displayed emissions stickers or a loose license plate.
Although other jurisdictions have passed some similar legislation in the past year, Philadelphia is the first large city to make such a move to reduce “driving while black” offenses, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.