Philly Mayor Set to Sign Bill Banning Cops From Stopping Drivers for Minor Traffic Violations

Philly Mayor Set to Sign Bill Banning Cops From Stopping Drivers for Minor Traffic Violations police car sits on side of road with lights flashing (Dreamstime)

By Brian Freeman | Monday, 01 November 2021 02:39 PM

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign landmark legislation as soon as this week that will bar police from stopping drivers for minor traffic violations in a move aimed at easing tensions between law enforcement and Black drivers, CNN reported on Monday.

Philadelphia would become the first major U.S. city to enact such a law, although some local and state governments have also put into practice similar policies.

Last month, the Philadelphia City Council passed the Driving Equality Bill after studies showed that traffic stops for minor violations — such as broken tail lights and bumper issues — target black drivers at disproportionately higher rates.

The bill will take effect 120 days after Kenney signs it into law.

The city council issued a statement saying that the legislation seeks to "end the traffic stops that promote discrimination while keeping the traffic stops that promote public safety," the New York Post reported. "This approach seeks to redirect police time and resources towards keeping Philadelphians safe while removing negative interactions that widen the divide and perpetuate mistrust."

Council member Isaiah Thomas introduced the bill last October with nine co-sponsors in an attempt to address "the tension between police and community members by removing negative interactions," CNN reported.

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

Dennis Jay Kenney, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, told CNN that the legislation presents "risks in both directions," explaining that "the danger of not eliminating them is that it drives a wedge between the public and the police. If you're tired of 'driving while black,' you're less likely to cooperate during these stops."

However, he said that "the risk in the other direction, in the case of traffic safety, is that we prohibit some behavior and require you to have taillights because it's safer, people can more readily stop behind you. So, by saying these violations no longer matter, then to the extent that they impact public safety, then public safety will be negatively impacted."

He said Philadelphia came to the conclusion that stopping people for minor traffic infractions are disruptive and the risk to the relationship between the police and the community "is greater than the likely pay off of getting a bad guy every now and then."