Oct 15, 2021 - News

Philly City Council passes ban on traffic stops for minor violations

Hand holding gavel about to hit a stop sign block.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Philadelphia legislators passed a bill Thursday that aims to root out racial profiling by preventing cops from pulling over drivers solely for minor traffic violations.

What's happening: The bill, which the City Council passed 14-2, bans officers from pulling over drivers for so-called "secondary violations," such as driving with a broken taillight or without an inspection sticker.

Why it matters: Philly police are more likely to pull over Black drivers than white drivers.

  • Recent data shows 72% of drivers pulled over for alleged motor vehicle stops in Philadelphia are Black, at-large Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, the bills' main sponsor, said. However, Black residents only make up 42% of the city's population.

Details: The bill was backed by Mayor Jim Kenney and the city's police commissioner, who helped craft it.

  • The council also passed a companion bill to require the police department to track and publicly report data related to vehicle stops.

Be smart: Police can still conduct stops for non-secondary violations, like speeding and blowing through a stop sign.

What they're saying: Thomas, a Democrat, said the overwhelming majority of traffic stops don't result in the discovery of a weapon or drugs.

  • "We can't do things the same way we did in the past," he said. "We have to be more innovative. We have to continue to reinvent ourselves."

Gregory Holston, a reverend and senior adviser to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, said that "structural racism is a reality in our police department."

  • He said the bill serves as a start for law enforcement to regain the trust of the Black community.

The other side: At-large Councilmember David Oh, a Republican who voted against both bills, warned the measure was potentially “illegal” and could be superseded by state law.

What's next: The bills now head to Kenney, who's expected to sign them.


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