Philadelphia’s Driving Equality Bill

Politics

Kylie McGovern, Editor

On Thursday, Oct. 14, the Philadelphia City Council passed a bill to affect the way police make traffic stops. This bill is called the Driving Equality bill and its goal is to close racial inequities in a city where people of color are 3.4 times as likely to be pulled over than white people. The Driving Equality Bill was passed by a large 14-2 by the City Council. 

The bill categorizes certain code violations as “primary violations,” so officers can pull people over in the name of public safety, and “secondary violations” that don’t meet the criteria for a lawful traffic stop. Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’ office wrote the bill making Philadelphia one of the first major U.S. cities to ban police from stopping drivers for low-level traffic violations. Councilmember Isaiah Thomas was motivated to draft the Driving Equality bill to combat the racial profiling he has both witnessed and personally experienced on the streets of Philadelphia. 

Thomas says, “being pulled over by law enforcement is a rite of passage for Black men. It’s something we all know that we’re gonna have to go through. I’ve been pulled over so many times that I’ve actually lost count.” Once, Thomas was pulled over because his tail light was out. However, when Thomas took his car to be fixed the next morning, the mechanic told him there was nothing wrong with the tail light. 

The Driving Equality bill will take effect 120 days after Philadelphia Mayor and La Salle University alum Jim Kenney signs it into law. Kenney’s office reported that the bills were signed on Oct. 27. The mayor’s administration plans to implement the legislation through executive action by Nov. 3. Once the Driving Equality Bill is officially signed into law, the Philadelphia police will work on amendments and necessary training to implement the new law. Max Weisman, a spokesperson for Council Member Thomas, said the police department has exhibited support for the bill and has negotiated in “good faith.”

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