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Pittsburgh councilman to introduce bill prevent police from conducting certain traffic stops

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess introduced a new piece of legislation Monday aimed at reducing the number of traffic stops in the city.

He said stops indiscriminately impact people of color.

“We want African Americans to have trust and faith in the police,” said Burgess.

The bill would prevent Pittsburgh police officers from stopping drivers for secondary violations like broken taillights, expired inspection, or other minor infractions. Those offenses would only be enforced if a driver is first pulled over for a larger issue.

“What we know right now is that African Americans are three times more likely to be stopped by the police, many times for these minor violations, and then being searched,” said Burgess. “It has a chilling effect in that we also know that those stops can turn deadly.”

Pittsburgh Police data, gathered by our partners at the Trib, shows in 2020, officers conducted 4,650 traffic stops with Black drivers compared to 4,513 with white drivers.

Beth Pittinger, the Executive Director of the Independent Citizen Police Review Board supports the new bill and said the board will review the legislation at its December 7 meeting.

“The motor vehicle code is certainly different from the criminal code in that the standards are a little bit different, but you can’t use one to get to the other and that’s what we often see with these what seem to be trivial, ridiculous stops or pretextual stops,” she said.

In a statement, Pittsburgh Public Safety said it looks forward to reviewing the legislation and working with the City Council.

Councilman Burgess said he’s gathered co-sponsor support from two other council members and hopes to pass the bill by the end of the year.

The City Council is set to hold a public hearing on Wednesday, November 17.