Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to ban police stops for minor traffic violations in an effort to reduce harmful interactions between law enforcement and people of color.

Mayor Jim Kenney signed legislation Monday, some two weeks after the city council voted 14-2 in favor of the policy, which will limit traffic stops to primary violations that threaten public safety.

“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 Council Member Isaiah Thomas, who introduced the ordinance. “By removing the traffic stops that promote discrimination rather than public safety, City Council has made our streets safer and more equitable.”

The new rule targets “secondary violations” that include things such as expired registration, a single broken tail light or missing inspection and emissions testing certificates.

Thomas said the bill redirects law enforcement’s efforts toward promoting public safety while lessening “negative interactions that widen the divide and perpetuate mistrust.”

… The bill redirects law enforcement’s efforts towards promoting public safety while lessening ‘negative interactions that widen the divide and perpetuate mistrust.’

The city police department will have 120 days to train officers on the new ordinance.

In Philadelphia, 62% of police officers and 7 in 10 homicide investigators are white, despite accounting for less than one-third of the overall population. 

During a July 2020 legislative hearing about police arbitration concerns, the Defenders Association of Philadelphia said its analysis of 1,200 officer interactions with people of color resulted in confiscation of contraband “considered detrimental to society” less than 1% of the time.

Thomas also sponsored a companion bill that creates a searchable database of traffic violations that will track driver and officer information to better illuminate how widespread and deep the problem goes. City council approved the measure, 15-1.

“Data and lived experiences showed us the problem and data will be key to making sure this is done right,” he said. “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.”

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.

This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.

2 thoughts on “Philadelphia bans police stops for certain traffic violations”

  1. Too bad this wasn’t the policy when Philly PD smashed into Rickia Young’s car, summarily beat her in front of her child, detained her, then lied about the incident so they could stage a photo op with her kid for social media as though they were saving him from protesters. If you don’t believe this account, the police admitted all of this when they were caught and had to pay out $2 million dollars (of taxpayer money!) to settle the suit.

    1. Oh and I should of course add that the “crime” she committed was trying to drive AWAY from a protest she accidentally got stuck in.

      “The city of Philadelphia will pay $2 million to a Black woman who was pulled from a car, beaten by officers and had her toddler used for social media fodder by the police union, officials said.

      Nursing aide Rickia Young was headed home in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 2020, when she unknowingly drove into a large protest over the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.

      She tried to make a three-point turn to get away from the tense scene when officers smashed out her windows with their batons, according to her attorneys.”

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