Philadelphia is set to become the first major U.S. city to ban police from stopping drivers for low-level traffic violations.
In mid-October, the Philadelphia City Council says it voted 14-2 the approve “Driving Equality bills,” which seek to address the tension between law enforcement and community members by removing negative interactions through minor traffic stops.
The city council says the bills will end traffic stops that promote discrimination while keeping the traffic stops that promote public safety.
The city is seeking to redirect police time and resources toward keeping residents safe, while also removing negative interactions that perpetuate mistrust.
The bill will next be sent to the city’s mayor, Jim Kenney, for his approval. If he signs it into law, the Philadelphia Police Department will have 120 days to train and educate its force on the changes.
Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who authored the bill, hopes it helps bring peace of mind to the next generation.
“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,” said Thomas. “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 city council also passed a bill that would mandate a public, searchable database of traffic stops that includes driver and officer information, reasons for conducting stops, as well as demographic and geographic data.
“Data and lived experiences showed us the problem and data will be key to making sure this is done right,” said Thomas. “Data will tell us if we should end more traffic stops or amend how this is enforced. Data will also tell other cities that Philadelphia is leading on this civil rights issue and it can be replicated.”