Philadelphia becomes first major city to ban police from stopping cars for low-intensity traffic violations

Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to ban police officers from stopping cars for traffic violations after Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney enacted two landmark bills this week.

Philadelphia City Council voted 12-2 on Oct. 14 to approve Council Member Isaiah Thomas’ Equal Conduct Bill, which seeks to end traffic stops that promote discrimination while maintaining those that promote public safety, according to a press release.

The legislation divides traffic offenses into two categories: “primary offenses”, which constitute a threat to public safety and allow the police to arrest a driver, and “secondary offenses” which do not meet the threshold of a driver. legal road check. A complementary bill directs the police to collect files on all roadside checks and make them public every month.

Kenney’s office said the mayor signed both bills on Wednesday and plans to enforce them with an executive order to be signed by Nov. 3, according to The Hill.

An NYPD officer can be seen smiling in his rearview mirror near Hudson Yards amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 12, 2020 in New York City.
Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images

Low-level “secondary” offenses include license plate and bumper problems, according to the Philadelphia Police Department.

Once the bills come into force, police will not be allowed to arrest drivers for such offenses unless they commit an additional offense that poses a high risk to public safety.

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

Thomas introduced the bill with nine cosponsors last October with the intention of alleviating “tension between police and community members by removing negative interactions.”

“We need to rethink police-community relations in a way that does not undermine public safety. I think my equal conduct agenda does just that,” Thomas said in a statement. “The first exchange of a person of color with a police officer should not take place during a discriminatory traffic stop.”

He added, “By working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department, we have been able to identify traffic stops that do nothing to keep people safe and suppress negative interaction. I think this Philadelphia law can set a precedent for other cities, not only through the policy itself, but through the process of collaboration.

News week contacted Mayor Jim Kenney’s office, the Philadelphia Police Department and council member Isaiah Thomas for further comment.