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In a move to promote greater equity, the city of Philadelphia has decided to ban traffic stops for minor infractions, such as a broken tail light or expired license plate. Philly, the sixth most-populous city in the United States, becomes the first major city to ban law enforcement from engaging in such minor stops.
The hashtag #DrivingEquality has recently taken over social media, as user note the inherent danger in traffic stops for citizens who are driving while Black. Such minor traffic stops often lead to situations in which law enforcement officers disproportionately search Black men and women for drugs or weapons, and can end in brutality, or even death.
Such was the case with Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old innocent Black man who was pulled over by a police officer for having an air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror. Mr. Wright was accused of flouting an arrest warrant, and was later shot and killed by the police officer.
Bill author: Council member Isaiah Thomas
“#DrivingEquality reinforces that public safety can be achieved with other methods than traffic stops,” said Philadelphia City Council member Isaiah Thomas, who authored the bill. He continued on Twitter, “Traffic stops are traumatic for drivers and scary for police officers. Limiting them makes everyone safer and communities stronger.”
In a study completed over a year, law enforcement in Philly stopped Black drivers 72% of the time; meanwhile fewer than 50% of the city’s drivers are Black men or women. Black drivers were then more than twice as likely to be searched for drugs or weapons.
Council member Thomas also noted the cultural and personal experience of being pulled over as a Black driver. “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.”
Moreover, Philly Council member Thomas said he dreams of a city in which being pulled over for a traffic violation is a safety issue and not a rite of passage for young Black men and women.
Additionally, the Driving Equity Bill also aims to mediate frustration and challenges between law enforcement and local citizens, who maintain such minor traffic violation stops increase hostility between the groups. The bill divides violations into two groups, primary and secondary, with only primary violations used as a reason to stop a motorist.