Let’s stop most car stops

At first blush, City Councilman Isaiah Thomas’ bill to end traffic stops for minor traffic violations seems like another half-assed idea to help the irresponsible avoid the consequences of their actions.

Councilman Isaiah Thomas has a non arresting idea, (Photo: City & State PA)

As you may know, one of my operating systems is this: Obey The Law.

You would be surprised about how little trouble most people would have if only they would Obey The Law. 

A common impulse on the Left is reducing incarceration by watering down the law. And reducing sentencing. And avoiding bail. These ideas have had mixed results.

At first glance, Councilman Thomas’ bill seems to be one like those I just described, but appearances can be deceiving and appearances is one motive, but just one, behind his bill.

I am talking about the appearance of the driver.

Ever hear of “driving while Black?” Every Black person I know has, and most believe they were pulled over for that reason and nothing more. And not just once.

That’s not supposed to happen in America, but it does.

Says who? Among others, the freshman Councilman does, but he backs his “Driving Equality” bill with stats and facts, which I will present in a moment. 

In brief, the bill requires that instead of pulling drivers over for minor Motor Vehicle Code violations, a warning or ticket would be mailed to the motorist.

“Humph,” roared one of talk radio’s mouthpieces, “they’re going to ignore that ticket.”

My answer is that they will ignore the one handed to them also, if they care to. 

But, but, but, the objection goes, the ticket goes to the car owner, who might not have been the driver.

True, that’s why mailed tickets — such as from speeding and red-light cameras — carry fines but not points on the driver’s license. 

Thomas’ bill would not prevent police from writing tickets or stopping drivers who commit serious violations. It would reduce police/civilian interactions, which is probably a good thing in current times.

But does it conform to state law? “State law dictates the code itself, but we believe that Council has the jurisdiction to enforce the code itself if enacted,” say Max Weisman, Thomas’ communications director. He adds that 90% of stops do not even result in a ticket.

According to stats offered by Thomas, 97% of all vehicle stops between October 2018 and September 2019 in Philadelphia were for Motor Code Violations, not for criminal investigations. More than 70% of motorists stopped for MCVs were Black, while only 43% of Philadelphians are Black. You can draw your own conclusions, but unequal enforcement would have to be one of them.

Rightly or wrongly, Black people are often traumatized during stops, some fearing for their lives, says Thomas.

These charts, assembled by the Defender Association of Philadelphia, bring it home.

This one shows the racial distribution of people stopped. This is one blue wave you don’t want to be part of.

This chart shows the reasons police gave for the car stop.

This chart shows how little contraband or weapons are seized during a car stop.

Wow, that’s nothing.

What about a driver getting a wrong ticket, let’s say the officer writes down the wrong license number?

The car owner can fight the ticket exactly as any other — by mail, email, or in person.

So the bill doesn’t diminish enforcement, it simply takes the physical confrontation out of it.

It may not be perfect, but it seems like it’s worth a shot.

28 thoughts on “Let’s stop most car stops”

    Naturally, Councilman Thomas bill has merit. You have to be a fool to think other wise. However, I don’t agree with the councilman. Have you ever heard of “courtesy stops”? That would be when the vehicle that you’re driving is in violation of the motor vehicle codes, which by the way, makes you in violation of those codes. The courtesy stop – that’s the name that I know – is when you are pulled over and the police tell you that your light is out, or your sticker has expired or what ever.
    When I rode my cycle years ago, if I noticed the vehicle in front of me had a problem, at the next opportunity, I would tell the driver. I also did this when I was driving my vehicle, although, it’s much easier when you’re on two wheels. Almost always, that driver would ask me why I was doing this, and I would say that your at risk of causing harm to someone as well as to you, plus, why give “the man” a reason to pull you over. Almost all said thanks.
    You see Stu. Very few people check their vehicle when they get in it. They just go. I taught my kids, to check the lights and tires. Easy enough, when you can walk around your car to see round tires, and inside, using your mirrors, you can usually see your lights in a reflection. It only takes a minute to be safe.

    1. As I reported, 90% of stops do not result in ticket. These would be warnings of one kind or another. On balance, having an out tail light is not worth it.

      1. Stu,
        As usual, couldn’t agree with you less. There’s nothing like driving down a road/street and all of a sudden, the car in front of you makes a maneuver. Be it stop, turn whatever. Since you don’t drive much, you don’t get to see how many vehicles are missing REQUIRED safety equipment. Some cars don’t have a headlight. What’s worse ?!? Some cars have their high beams on, because they know that they have a head light out ! Naturally, many people don’t care about anyone else on the road.
        “Driving while black” ! Get over yourself. It is illegal to have all of your windows and windshield darkened. My buddies ( cops ) – out of their own pocket – buy the biggest portable lamp that they can afford. Why, you don’t ask ? Because, when approaching a car that you just pulled over, you don’t know what you are going to find ! Dark glass makes it worse. The old rule still applies. Spoken by my minority co-workers at PWD. If you get pulled over by the police, stay calm, make your hands visible, open your window and at night, turn on your interior lights. You “probably” did something wrong. You may have a light out and you’re about to get a warning, or you were just doing a 100mph in a 25 mph zone!

        1. Chris Rock did a really funny send-up on being Black and stopped by a cop. If you’ve not seen it, go on line and do so. Basically, his point in the video to Blacks was, “If you’re stopped, STFU!” Which I believe may be the title of the video.

          1. Vince,
            I did not see it, but that is ALWAYS the message to EVERYONE ! STFU ! You may or may not have done something wrong. If either one of you are having a bad hair day, it will only get much worse for the civilian !
            Been there, Done that !

      2. Stu,
        When young, early 20’s
        I was stopped just for that. Long time ago I know, just saying. A safety stop, no ticket.

  2. Nobody like to get pulled over by the police. That being said nobody likes getting red light camera and speeding tickets in the mail either. This may just be the future and will be a huge money grab for municipalities.

  3. I want to send my congratulations to President Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris. I know a number or people here are not happy with the results but I will not be negative toward them because it is time to heal and not further divide, our great country.

    1. I now look forward to a Democrat Utopia. If the Democrats can do for the nation what it has done for Philadelphia, prosperity is just around the…planet Jupiter.

        1. Of course. I just think the Left will damage the nation grievously, and you think the USA is about to become Heaven on Earth. Or Philadelphia. But I repeat myself.

  4. No one in their right mind thinks the USA is about to be “heaven on Earth”. We are going to need a great deal of time to attempt to heal this wounded nation.

    1. My sentiments as well Candace. Unfortunately there will be a lot of people who will expect President-Elect Biden to repair overnight all of the things that Trump destroyed during his 4 years in office. There will also be people who, no matter what Biden does to make things better, will not give him credit for doing it.

      1. Some one is going to have to explain to me what DT ‘destroyed.’ What I have seen (starting on the night DT won and Hillary lost) have been four years of unremitting hatred aimed at the man and his family by the Left. Have you all forgotten the mobs streaming through the streets on election night four years ago screaming “F***K Trump!” and “Not my president!” Why anyone (left or right) would expose him/herself to such vile behavior explains why se have such lightweights running for office.

        1. Vince, we were exposed to the vile behavior of Trump for the past four years but I guess his behavior is alright with you.

    Well, boys and girls, here we are. November 8. Officially, we DO NOT have a newly elected President. Yea, don’t look good for OUR President Trump, but who knows ? My crystal ball got thrown out by mistake. My genie refuses to come out of his lamp. The fortune teller retired. I suppose that means that we’ll just have to wait and see what transpires.
    In my not so humble opinion, I would like to see President Trump get a second term. In spite of what the naysayers are complaining about. This country is doing better than it has in I don’t know how long. President Trump recognized that we – the United States of America – gave away our future to China and every other nation. The man was in the process of “bringing it home”. Make it here and control your future. I’m pretty sure that most of you would agree with that statement, especially after this pandemic brought to light, our dependency on China and the world market.
    The biggest scare that the opposition never wanted to accept, is that Washington D.C. is and has been full of Graft, Greed and Corruption for years and years. When Donald Trump campaigned on “draining the swamp”, most people were clueless. Even Mr. Trump later said that he didn’t realize just how bad the swamp was.
    What I would like to see happen is this. The Supreme Court takes these lawsuits and hears the petition. I would like to see a favorable ruling for President, but I doubt that that will be the outcome. I would like to see SCOTUS order the purging of ALL voter registrations ! This has been a sore spot since records were first kept. I would also like to see Congress get their act together and straighten out any misconceptions and irregularities concerning voting. They would have the power to bring all of these problems to a climax. Including voting by mail. I really do believe that mail-ins are here to stay. Lets debug the antiquated systems and get it right. You have two years. Get started now !

  6. Using police resources in better ways, and reducing possible confrontations to protect both the driver and the officer are sound justifications for the bill. I won’t go into unrelated tangents about “grievous damage” to the nation, “utopia,” or other off-subject topics. You were addressing Driving While Black, a very real issue.

  7. I would greatly appreciate a rundown of all the horrors perpetrated by Trump these last 4 years.True I am not an illegal immigrant nor a criminal but life seemed pretty normal until the great plague struck.Gays were not lined up against the wall and shot( at least in my neighborhood.Blacks were not strange fruit.Wars were not fought- and so on.The outrage was based on nothing.See the Social Dilemna film.You have all been duped.

    1. Tearing apart families at the border was a “horror”. The Courts intervened and ordered the administration to re-unite the families. To date, more than 500 children have fallen through, the administration has not located the parents. And many more children have been emotionally traumatized by the experience. If you don’t think that this inhumane policy was a “horror”, I suggest you go to the cardiologist and check your heart. I could go on, but as of now, it’s not worthy. He’s toast.

  8. Disentangling discrimination from effective policing is challenging and requires a lot more statistical studies. In some studies the judgement is how much contraband was found in white car stops versus black car stops and based on the number of both stops they average out as non discriminatory When you police in a high crime area the way people drive or the condition of the vehicle hints at a possible car stop; There is also a danger and common fear in any car stop especially in a district where the crime rate is high then the approach is more cautious and will appear to be a driving while black stop. I believe at times there could be a bias in car stops in the areas where crime is prevalent but your job is to show results in the performance of your assignment. However the inconvenience of a car stop should not infer that it was racial and continue to project the perception that all stops are racially motivated. You can draw a conclusion from the statistics but missing is the human element which must include the result of the car stop, the conduct of the officers, the believability of the stop by the driver and the ability to file a complaint. If Council wants a driver in a high crime area to be aware he may get a ticket instead of being stopped with a carload of drugs, guns or some burglary items then just let the police have extra pens to do the job and watch the crime rate spiral.

  9. I’ld be real curious as to the REAL number of tickets written for camera violations. Then I’ld be even more curios as to the number of tickets paid. I believe that a vendor is the collector, as opposed to the city trying to collect.
    I doubt that you could get a honest count. I also doubt that many people pay the tickets.

  10. Makes as much sense an legalizing murder. Less arrests, less people in prison. Think of the lower taxes.

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