Philadelphia becomes the first major city in the United States to ban police from stopping motorists for low-level traffic violations

Driving Equality Bill, passed 14-2 by the City Council October 14 categorizes certain violations of the Motor Vehicle Code as “primary violations” that allow officers to drag people into public safety, and “secondary violations” that do not meet the criteria for a legal traffic stop, according to Councilor Isaiah’s office Thomas, who authored the bill.

While Philadelphia is the largest city to ban such traffic jams, some local and state governments have also adopted similar policies.

In Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey announced in August that the city’s police officers will no longer carry out conditional traffic jams for low-level offenses as part of his 2022 budget proposal. a mirror, or an expired license, “according to a press release from the city.

In March, Virginia became the first state to ban these stops within three months of the introduction of the bill. Law enforcement officers cannot legally stop motorists for driving without a light that illuminates a license plate, without brake lights or a high-mounted stop light and with certain sun-shielding materials and tone films, according to the law.

“The bill also stipulates that no law enforcement officer may legally stop, search, or seize any person, place, or thing solely on the basis of the odor of marijuana,” the Virginia bill states.

The police are on board

Dennis Jay Kenney, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told CNN that there are “risks in both directions” by allowing police to stop traffic for minor offenses and ban them altogether.

“The danger of not eliminating them is that it drives a wedge between the public and the police,” Kenney said. “If you are tired of driving while you are black, you are less likely to cooperate during these stops.”

“The risk in the other direction, in the case of road safety, is that we ban some behavior and require you to have taillights, because it is safer, people can more easily stop behind you. So by saying that these violations are no longer means something, so to the extent that they affect public safety, then public safety will be negatively affected, “Kenney added.

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Kenney said Philadelphia has decided that pretexts are disruptive and that the risk to the relationship between police and society “outweighs the likely benefits of having a bad guy every now and then.”

Once the Driving Equality Bill is signed into law, Philadelphia police will work on directive changes and necessary training. Max Weisman, a spokesman for Councilman Thomas, said the police department has shown support for the bill and has negotiated in “good faith”.

The bill was informed of the development of the Bailey pilot program, a result of the 2011 settlement agreement between Bailey v. City of Philadelphia, which requires the police department to collect data on all stop-and-go and store them in an electronic database. The trial claimed that thousands of people in Philadelphia were illegally stopped, searched and detained by police officers.

Low level offenses such as license plate and bumper issues will now be categorized as secondary offenses that prevent officers from performing traffic jams unless there is a further high-level security breach, according to the Philadelphia Police Department.

“We believe this is a fair and balanced approach to addressing racial differences without compromising public safety,” the department said in a statement. “This changed enforcement model for car stops promotes the ministry’s priority in addressing the issue of racial differences in the ministry’s investigative stop and complements the ministry’s efforts to address the same problems at pedestrian stops.”

‘A traffic stop is a transition ritual’

Councilman Thomas presented the bill with nine co-sponsors in October 2020 with the aim of addressing “the tension between police and community members by removing negative interactions,” according to his office.

“I am humbled by every person who told my office about the humiliation and trauma I experienced in some of these traffic jams,” Thomas said. “For many people like me, a traffic stop is a rite of passage – we pick cars, we determine routes, we plan our social interactions around the fact that we are likely to be pulled over by the police.”

The legislation is also part of a package that includes his accompanying bill, which mandates a public, searchable database of traffic jams that will be published each month. The police will be required to prepare digital records of which officers make traffic stops, who was stopped, the reason for the stop and other data that will be included in the database.
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“These bills end the traffic jams that promote discrimination while preserving the traffic jams that promote public safety,” his office said in a press release. “This approach seeks to redirect police time and resources toward keeping the Philadelphia population safe while eliminating negative interactions that widen the gap and perpetuate mistrust.”

The new legislation does not change the motor vehicle code that motorists are legally obliged to follow, but those who commit minor offenses now only receive one warning or quote per vehicle. mail.

The bill only removes the enforcement mechanism for a traffic stop, according to Weisman. It identifies seven secondary violations that prohibit traffic jams, including bumper problems, minor obstacles, broken lights, and a license plate that is not visible or clearly displayed.

Minor violations such as broken taillights, the smell of marijuana, incorrectly displayed license plates or hanging things from a car’s rearview mirror have been criticized as a pretext for racially motivated traffic stops.

Black drivers, who make up 48% of Philadelphia’s population, accounted for 72% of the nearly 310,000 traffic jams by police officers between October 2018 and September 2019, according to data from the Defender Association of Philadelphia. As of this year, black drivers account for 67% of stops compared to only 12% of white drivers, the data show.

Alan Tauber, acting chief defense officer of the Defender Association for Philadelphia, said the legislation is a “big first step in building more trust between our police and colored communities,” adding: “We are hopeful that the adoption of Driving Equality Bill is only the beginning of informed and meaningful conversations about positive changes in our legal system that will benefit the entire Philadelphia people. ”

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