Councilman proposes stop to minor traffic violations in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — Statistics show a disproportionate number of black men and women are pulled over by police in Pittsburgh and the city council wants to do something about it.

Reverend Ricky Burgess is a city councilman who says he has spent his life taking on police reform.

“We have a problem in our city with traffic stops,” Rev. Burgess tells Channel 11.

Reverend Burgess introduced a new proposal in November to stop Pittsburgh police from making traffic stops for minor violations like having a taillight or headlight out. This week, the city council voted to push the proposal forward.

“We know that in 2020, the majority of traffic stops occurred among African Americans while we’re only 25% or so of the population,” Burgess added.

He says public safety starts with public trust and black men and women feel they’re being targeted.

“We know these traffic stops help breed a sense of terror and over-policing and fear in the minds of African American people,” Burgess said. “The best way to increase public safety is to increase community confidence in police. It takes a partnership.”

Under this proposal, Pittsburgh police wouldn’t be able to pull you over if you had a single taillight or headlight out or if your inspection, registration, or emissions sticker was fewer than 60 days expired. Same goes for a license plate that isn’t placed properly but is still visible.

Councilman Anthony Coghill was the only member to vote no to the proposal. He acknowledges black people are 23% of the population, but 46% of traffic violations in the city, but says this is premature.

Councilman Coghill tells Channel 11, “I am and will be on the frontlines of police reform, but this is premature, and leaves too many unanswered questions like what this means for public safety.”

Coghill added, “We need to be talking about solutions. Is it over-policing in certain areas? Is it poverty? That’s where we should be focusing. This isn’t responsible police reform. It’s against state code and law enforcement needs to be at the table.”

If approved, Burgess tells Channel 11 the city has 120 days to train officers on the new policy. It’s something Burgess says was discussed with the public safety director and the police chief.

The city council is expected to vote to approve this proposal Monday.