Philadelphia on Thursday approved legislation that will bar its police officers from pulling over drivers for low-level motor vehicle offenses like broken taillights.


With a 14-2 vote, City Council passed the Driving Equality Bill, which details seven offenses — including improperly displayed registration or emission stickers — as “secondary violations” that cannot be the sole reason for police to pull over a driver. Instead, officers can issue citations for those infractions that will be mailed to drivers.


The legislation will take effect 120 days after Mayor Kenney signs it, which he is expected to do in the coming days.


In doing so, Philadelphia became the first large U.S. city to ban the use of so-called pretextual stops for low-level infractions, a practice that police departments have not only permitted, but encouraged for years to enable officers to potentially search the cars of drivers they suspected of carrying illegal drugs or weapons.


Instead, critics claim, it led to motorists being unfairly stopped and searched for driving while Black.


The new law is likely to have a significant impact on the nature of policing in Philadelphia. About 97% of police vehicle stops are for low-level violations, according to the Defender Association. Eliminating those could lead to as many as 300,000 fewer police encounters each year, it projected.



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