In Council News, Isaiah Thomas, News by admin

Philadelphia Police are in the process of being trained on this new policing policy

PHILADELPHIA, PA — After 120 days for police training and implementation, Driving Equality will be an enforceable law in Philadelphia effective March 3, 2022. Driving Equality reclassifies seven minor motor vehicle code violations as secondary violations which will not be administered with a traffic stop. These violations include past due emission and inspection stickers, late registration, minor bumper damage, having one tail light out, relocation of a license plate, items hanging from the rear view mirror, and improper location for window permits. Similar to Pennsylvania seat belt laws, these are still violations but would be enforced with methods other than a traffic stop.

“As a coach, I often have a whistle hanging from my mirror. This same motor vehicle code violation initiated the traffic stop that led to Daunte Wright, Philando Castile, and so many others’ deaths,” said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large). “Many traffic stops are traumatic and, since they are oftentimes a person of color’s first interaction with law enforcement, start off a tense relationship. By removing the stops that promote discrimination rather than public safety, we can rebuild police-community trust.”

Last October, City Council passed Councilmember Thomas’ Driving Equality bills with an overwhelming majority. This bill was crafted through a working group consisting of representatives from Councilmember Thomas’ office, Defenders Association of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Police Department and Mayor Kenney’s policy and legal teams. Once passed by City Council, Mayor Kenney cemented the law with an Executive Order last November. The City Council bills and Mayoral Executive Order gave Philadelphia Police three months for training and education before enforcing Driving Equality. After internal training, Driving Equality will be enforceable effective March 3, 2022.

A companion bill requires the Philadelphia Police Department to record information on each vehicle stop into an electronic database to be posted publicly as well as shared with City Council and the Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Additionally, Councilmember Thomas is establishing a working group to monitor the implementation and data surrounding Driving Equality. Councilmember Thomas is grateful to the Defender Association of Philadelphia for analyzing police data and continuing to provide counsel on these bills.

“I’m proud of the contributions of the Defender Association to the Driving Equality law, particularly the work of our Police Accountability Unit, who provided so much of the legal framework for this groundbreaking legislation,” said Keisha Hudson, Chief Defender of the Defenders Association of Philadelphia. “This law reflects the experiences of our attorneys, clients and communities. Driving Equality will go a long way toward improving relationships between the police and communities of color, which will have a tremendous impact on public safety in Philadelphia.”

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