Rita Offutt, Editor
On Nov. 3, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Driving Equality Bill, making Philadelphia the first major city to enact a law against low-level traffic stops. According to the National Public Radio (NPR), the law “bans stops for: driving with a single broken brake light, driving with a single headlight, having a registration plate that’s not clearly displayed, fastened, or visible, driving without an inspection or emissions sticker, bumper issues, minor obstructions (like something hanging from a rearview mirror) [and] driving without vehicle registration within 60 days of the observed infraction.” Instead of being stopped for these offenses, cars will be ticketed.
Philadelphia’s city council passed the bill in a 14-2 vote on Oct. 14. It will go into effect in February, allowing the Philadelphia Police Department 120 days to retrain officers in accordance with the legislation. According to NPR, “The Philadelphia Police Department was part of a coalition of stakeholders who helped draft the legislation…to [address] racial disparity without compromising public safety.” CNN reported that the Philadelphia Police Department released a statement saying, “We believe this is a fair and balanced approach to addressing racial disparity without compromising public safety. This modified enforcement model for car stops 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.”
The Driving Equality Bill was initially proposed by city councilmember Isaiah Thomas in October 2020, and cosponsored by Kenyatta Johnson, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Cherelle Parker and Curtis Jones. According to NPR, Thomas authored the bill after he was stopped for a traffic violation while his son was in the car. Thomas told CNN, “I am humbled by every person who told my office of the humiliation and trauma experienced in some of these traffic stops. To many people who look like me, a traffic stop is a rite of passage — we pick out cars, we determine routes, we plan our social interactions around the fact that it is likely that we will be pulled over by police.”