The City of Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to ban police officers from stopping drivers for minor infractions after Mayor Jim Kenney implemented the Driving Equality bill on Wednesday, November 3rd via executive order. Kenney had previously signed the bill the week prior, on October 27th. The bill, which was authored by Councilmember Isaiah Thomas and passed by the city council on October 14th, reclassified motor vehicle code violations as “primary” and “secondary” violations. According to CNN, primary violations allow police officers to pull people over in the name of public safety, whereas secondary violations do not meet the criteria for a lawful traffic stop. Minor obstructions, bumper issues, single brake light, headlight, running light, etc. not illuminated, registration plate not clearly displayed, fastened, or visible, are among some of the examples of secondary violations. The bill, which is scheduled to take effect 120 days after it was signed by Kenney, addresses the controversy over pretextual stops, which studies have shown disproportionally target people of color. The sponsors of the bill argued that it would end the traffic stops that promote discrimination, while still keeping traffic stops that promote public safety, and that it would help address the “tension between police and community members by removing negative interactions.”
The City of Philadelphia is not the first to enact legislation that addresses traffic stops. Other local and state jurisdictions have passed similar measures. For example, in March, the state of Virginia became the first state to ban the low-level traffic stops that disproportionately impact people of color. In August, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced in his 2022 Budget Proposal, that “Minneapolis police officers [would] no longer be conducting pretextual stops for offenses like expired tabs, an item dangling from a mirror, or an expired license.” And, in September Minnesota’s Ramsey County announced that its prosecutors would “no longer pursue cases against people who are unfairly tragedy and detained during non-public safety stops.” This announcement came five years after Philando Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop in 2016. Castile, a Black man, had been pulled over for having a broken tail light.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain the impact that this legislation, as well as the similar measures in other jurisdictions, will have on communities of color.
- Debate: According to Alan Tauber, the acting chief for the Defender Association for Philadelphia, the legislation is a “great step to building more trust between our police and communities of color.” Do you believe that the Driving Equality bill will bring positive changes to the justice system?
- Poll: Traffic stops disproportionately impact drivers who are Black. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss the difference between primary and secondary violations under the new Driving Equality bill.
Cover Image: iStock/mokee81