In Council News, Isaiah Thomas, News by admin

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This legislation seeks to remove Philadelphia police from certain traffic stops, improving police-community relations without compromising on public safety

Philadelphia, PA. — In October 2020, Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large) introduced the Driving Equality Bill to remove Philadelphia police from most traffic stops. After months of negotiating with the Defenders Association of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department, the City Solicitor, and the Office of Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, an agreement has been reached. Councilmember Thomas has introduced updated legislation which outlines the intent for preventing racial disparities with policing without risking public safety.

“We need to rethink police-community relations in a way that does not infringe on public safety. I believe that my Driving Equality Agenda does just that,” said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas. “A person of color’s first exchange with a police officer shouldn’t be during a discriminatory traffic stop. By working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department, we were able to identify traffic stops that do nothing to keep people safer and remove the negative interaction. I believe this Philadelphia legislation can set a precedent for other cities, not only through the policy itself but through the collaborative process.”

The Driving Equality Agenda codifies “secondary vehicle code violations” as not having an imminent public safety risk (outdated registration or a broken taillight) and would no longer warrant a traffic stop. The legislation also codifies “primary vehicle code violations” as possessing imminent public safety risk (intoxicated driving or driving the wrong way down a one-way street) and a traffic stop would still be permissible. In addition to this legislation, a second piece of legislation would require a searchable database of traffic stops with regular reporting.

The Driving Equality Agenda was introduced in Philadelphia City Council on June 24, 2021. The set of bills was cosponsored by Councilmembers Johnson, Gilmore Richardson, Gauthier, Brooks, Quiñones Sánchez, Parker, and Jones. The legislation can be voted on this fall, following a committee hearing, and is expected to have an accompanying Executive Order from the Mayor’s Administration.

Following the bill’s introduction, Councilmember Thomas stood at a press conference with Keir Bradford-Grey (former Chief Public Defender and current partner at Montgomery McCracken), David Rudovsky (founder of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin which filed the Bailey v. City of Philadelphia lawsuit, resulting in the Bailey Consent Decree) and Reverend Greg Holston (former Executive Director of POWER and current Senior Advisor for Policy and Advocacy to the Philadelphia District Attorney).

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