A 14-2 majority vote to remove police from certain traffic stops, improving police-community relations without compromising on public safety
Philadelphia, PA – City Council votes to approve Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’ Driving Equality bills which seeks to address the tension between police and community members by removing negative interaction through minor traffic stops. These bills end the traffic stops that promote discrimination while keeping the traffic stops that promote public safety. This approach seeks to redirect police time and resources towards keeping Philadelphians safe while removing negative interactions that widen the divide and perpetuate mistrust. In addition to the historic nature of this legislation, this groundbreaking process brought all parties to the negotiating table to ensure that this civil rights issue is elevated without compromising on the safety and well-being of Philadelphia.
“I am grateful to my colleagues for voting to pass my Driving Equality bills,” said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, “but moreso, 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. By removing the traffic stops that promote discrimination rather than public safety, City Council has made our streets safer and more equitable. With this vote, I breathe a sigh of relief that my sons and my friends’ children will grow up in a city where being pulled over is not a rite of passage but a measure of the safety of your driving and vehicle, regardless of the skin color of the driver.”
Following City Council’s approval, the bill is sent to Mayor Kenney for his awaited signature into law. During last week’s Council session, Councilmember Thomas amended his bill to allow the Philadelphia Police Department 120 days for training and education before being implemented. In addition to the bill, which reclassifies motor vehicle code violations, City Council passed Councilmember Thomas’ data companion bill which mandates a public, searchable database of traffic stops (driver and officer information, reason for conducting traffic stop as well as demographic and geographic information). Data was a main component in illustrating the problem and will be a major factor in analyzing the success or need for alterations to the Driving Equality bill.
“Data and lived experiences showed us the problem and data will be key to making sure this is done right,” said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas. “Data will tell us if we should end more traffic stops or amend how this is enforced. Data will also tell other cities that Philadelphia is leading on this civil rights issue and it can be replicated.”
The Driving Equality bills were cosponsored by Johnson, Gilmore Richardson, Gauthier, Brooks, Quiñones Sánchez, Parker, Jones, and Domb passed unanimously out of the Public Safety committee by 7-0, and voted on today by 14-2 (with 15-1 for Data Bill).
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