Philadelphia is set to become the first major U.S. city to ban police from making minor traffic stops. This includes busted tail lights, expired inspection tags and other vehicular infractions. The law will take effect 120 days after Democrat Mayor Jim Kenney signs the bill. Those in favor of the new measures argue that black drivers are racially targeted and disproportionately stopped on the road, something left-wing activists refer to as “driving while black.”
Philadelphia City Council passed the “Driving Equality Bill” by a vote of 14-2 last Thursday. The legislation is designed to “reduce disparate, unequal police practices in how minority motorists are stopped by police for minor offenses,” according to the bill. The legislation was put forward by Councilmember Isiah Thomas.
“Councilmember Thomas’s Driving Equality bills seek 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,” reads the bill. Philadelphia Police officers will undergo “training and education” before the law takes effect. “Nothing in my bill will allow law enforcement to be handicapped when a crime is committed,” Thomas said. “I’m hoping this can be something historic.”
The new legislation comes as Philadelphia deals with increasing issues caused by large groups of street illegal off-road vehicles. Groups of ATVs and dirt bikes have essentially been given free roam and routinely take over entire city streets, at times veering onto the sidewalk or the wrong lane of traffic. Increasingly less visible Philadelphia Police officers are unable to stop the swarms while city leadership has been accused of taking a lax approach. Dirt-bike swarms have even made their way out to Philadelphia’s affluent, main line suburb of Radnor, not far from the campus of Villanova University.
There have also been instances of violence related to mobs of off-road vehicles. In March, a dirt biker almost shot a driver during a viral attack in South Philadelphia. According to police, a 25-year-old man was driving when a group on dirt bikes and quads stopped abruptly, causing the victim’s vehicle to strike one of the bikes. After the driver got out of his car to check see if the riders were OK, he was assaulted and had his car destroyed with a cinder block. The assailant then drew a handgun and walked towards the driver before being stopped by other riders. In June, a man was shot and killed by a dirt bike rider following a road rage incident in West Philadelphia.
Police have also been unable to stop other vehicle-related disturbances. Earlier this month, a large crowd gathered outside City Hall while cars did burnouts. A police car was damaged during the disturbance when members of the crowd jumped on the hood while another vehicle did donuts around the car. The incident took place in Philadelphia’s center city, which is not far from the city’s most notable landmarks and has historically been considered among the safest areas.
Critics of the new legislation argue that increasing vehicle-related criminal activity will only be emboldened. “A shameful day for Philly: it’s so-called leaders actively promote lawlessness and call it ‘equity.’ This type of ‘leadership’ is why the City is mired in crime and chaos,” wrote former federal prosecutor and current GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill McSwain in a tweet.