Philadelphia mayor signs bill banning police from stopping cars during low-level traffic violations

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) signed bills into law banning police from stopping cars during low-level traffic violations.

The Philadelphia City Council voted on Oct. 14 to pass two bills aimed at improving driving equality by removing negative interactions with police because of minor traffic stops, the council said in a statement.

Kenney’s office told The Hill that the bills were signed on Wednesday. His administration plans to implement the legislation through executive action, which should be signed by Nov. 3.

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The first bill, the Driving Equality Act, divides traffic violations into two categories — “primary” and “secondary” violations.

Police officers would not be allowed to pull over drivers for violations in the “secondary” category. These include things like a single broken light, operating a car without an official certificate of inspection, and having a license plate not “securely fastened” to the car that is otherwise clearly displayed.

Traffic stops would be permitted for “primary violations,” which pose an imminent public safety risk, according to a June statement from Philadelphia City Council member Isaiah Thomas, who sponsored the bill. This category includes violations like driving the wrong way on a one-way street or while intoxicated.

A companion bill mandates that the police department collect information for all vehicle stops and publicly release them in a database at least monthly.  

Black drivers accounted for 72 percent of nearly 310,000 traffic stops made in Philadelphia between Oct. 2018 and September 2019, according to CNN. This is despite Black drivers accounting for roughly 42 percent of the city's population.

Philadelphia is not the only local government to consider similar measures in recent years.

Ramsey County, Minn. and Minneapolis, Minn. have both said they would no longer pursue cases against those who were unfairly targeted during traffic stops, CNN noted. In Virginia, police officers cannot stop motorists for violations like driving with certain sun-shading materials or without brake lights.   

--Updated on Oct. 31 at 1:45 p.m.