Philadelphia Bans Low Level Traffic Stops With Historic Legislation

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The city of Philadelphia is making major moves to address unequal driving experiences among its citizens.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed two bills that effectively ban police for making traffic stops for low level offenses. According to The Hill, Kenney signed the bills last week and they'll be implemented through executive action by Wednesday (November 3).

On October 14, the Philadelphia City Council voted 14 - 2 to pass the Driving Equality Act which separates traffic stops into two categories –– "primary" and "secondary" violations. The bill prohibits police officers from pulling over a car for "secondary" offenses which include: single broken light, not having an official certificate of inspection, and having a license plate not "securely fastened" to the car that can otherwise be clearly seen.

Officers would be permitted to make traffic stops for primary violations like driving on the wrong way of a street or while intoxicated.

The second piece of legislation put in place on the issue requires police departments to collect and input data for all traffic stops into a database and make the information available to the public. The bill also stipulates the database has to be updated at least monthly.

Data shows this legislation would make driving more equitable particularly for Black drivers who made up 72% of the 310,000 traffic stops in Philadelphia between October 2018 and September 2019 despite Black people making up 42% of the city's population, CNN reported.

Police in Philadelphia seem to be on board.

"We believe this is a fair and balanced approach to addressing racial disparity without compromising public safety," the department said in a statement.

"This modified enforcement model for cars furthers the Department's priority of addressing the issue of racial disparity in the Department's investigative stops and complements the Department's efforts to address these same issues in pedestrian stops."

Philadelphia isn't the only city to take or consider similar measures. Ramsey County, Minnesota and Minneapolis each announced they wouldn't be taking traffic violation cases involving people who've been targeted. That bill came five years after Philando Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop for a broken tail light.

In Virginia, police can't stop drivers for certain sun-shading materials or tint films, or stop, search or seize "any person, place, or thing solely on the basis of the odor of marijuana."

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