For decades, police have disproportionately pulled over minorities, especially Black men, for minor traffic infractions. Those traffic stops have lead to a disproportionately large number of driver and passenger deaths when police discharge their weapons into the car for the wrong reason (like killing the driver for reaching into the glove compartment after the cop demands to see their registration).
The City of Philadelphia has now joined a number of other cities who've banned police from pulling over drivers for things like an obscured registration tag. Instead, the cops will take a photo of the license plate and the car owner will get a ticket in the mail. Here is a list of infractions that are on the no-stop list:
- Driving with a single broken brake light
- Driving with a single headlight
- Having a registration plate that's not clearly displayed, fastened, or visible
- Driving without an inspection or emissions sticker
- Bumper issues
- Minor obstructions (like something hanging from a rearview mirror)
- Driving without vehicle registration within 60 days of the observed infraction
Last Wednesday, Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Driving Equity Act, making Philadelphia the first major city in the U.S. to ban low-level traffic stops. The law, which also requires city police to gather and publicly release data on traffic stops, goes into effect early next year.
A bevy of studies show that Black drivers get pulled over for low-level infractions more often than other drivers in the United States. Civil rights groups often decry such stops as "pretextual" — as cover for racial profiling or fishing for more serious crimes.
The 2016 police killing of Philando Castile, a Black man pulled over in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for a missing taillight, drew national attention to the enforcement of low-level traffic stops.