Philadelphia became the first major city to ban police traffic stops of low-level motor vehicle offenses, a tactic which critics claim disproportionately affects black people.
The Philadelphia City Council passed two Driving Equity bills on Thursday that Mayor James Kenney is is expected to sign into law this week.
The law creates an open searchable database recording traffic stops and prohibits police officers from stopping drivers for minor offenses by reclassifying several offenses as secondary violations.
Secondary violations citations are issued to drivers by mail, eliminating the need for a low-level traffic stop, which is a tactic commonly used as a pretext to stop and search drivers.
'The way black men are often searched, specifically here in the City of Philadelphia, when pulled over by law enforcement, puts you in a position where you're very, very uncomfortable often,' said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who drafted the Driving Equality bills.
City councilman Isaiah Thomas authored the two bills which he introduced on June 24
The Philadelphia City Council passed two Driving Equity Bills which now await Mayor James Kenney's signature, which is expected to come within the next few days
Head of the Philadelphia Public Defenders' Police Accountability Unit Michael Mellon worked with Thomas to draft the bill analyzing police and city data
In Philadelphia, people of color are 3.4 times as likely to be pulled over as white people, according to WPVI Philadelphia, which analyzed city police and US Census data.
The bill states the searchable database must be developed within a year of the law being enacted. It will include driver and officer information, demographic and geographic information, and the reason for each stop.
Thomas drafted the bills to address the racial inequities and profiling that he has seen and experienced in his city and noted that 'Philadelphia is leading the nation when it comes to this particular issue.'
Thomas, who is black, says that he has been pulled over more times than he count.
'Being pulled over by law enforcement is a rite of passage for black men. It's something we all know that we're gonna have to go through,' he said to WPVI.
The city councilmember added that: 'The way black men are often searched, specifically here in the City of Philadelphia, when pulled over by law enforcement, puts you in a position where you're very, very uncomfortable often.'
He recounted a time when an officer told him he'd been pulled over for a broken taillight but was told by a mechanic that nothing what wrong with it when he took it to the mechanic the next day.
A broken taillight is the number one reason given for minor traffic stops, according to Michael Mellon, head of the Philadelphia Public Defenders' Police Accountability Unit.
But while Thomas has lost count of how many times he's been pulled over, Mellon, who is white, has never been stopped by police- despite the fact that he frequently drives through heavily policed areas for his job.
'The only real answer we have here is that there's a racial bias in policing itself,' Mellon said.
People of color are 3.4 times as likely to be pulled over as white people in Philadelphia
Native American Philadelphians are the most likely minority group to be stopped
94 per cent of all traffic stops in Philadelphia this year happened to people of color
Latino drivers are 3.1 times more likely than white drivers to be searched during a traffic stop in Philadelphia
Although Philadelphia Police have searched fewer of the vehicles they've stopped this year compared to recent years, data shows the racial disparities of these stops have widened
The data analyzed by WPVI shows that black people have made up 76.7 per cent of traffic stops so far this year. That equates to more than double their portion of the city population.
WPVI found that 94 percent of all Philadelphia traffic stops this year were of driver who were people of color.
Black Philadelphians have a 5.2 times higher chance as white Philadelphians to be pulled over while Native American Philadelphians were 5.7 times as likely as white Philadelphians to be stopped. Latino Philadelphians were recorded to be 1.6 times as likely as white Philadelphians to be pulled over.
Mellon cited the fact that these pretextual stops are difficult to challenge in court because they were ruled