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Police accountability advocates ask Pittsburgh City Council to hold off on bill to limit traffic stops

Maggie Young
90.5 WESA

Police accountability advocates are asking Pittsburgh officials to table a bill that would limit the offenses for which police could pull over motorists.

The letter was signed by Brandi Fisher with the Alliance for Police Accountability, Tim Stevens with the Black Political Empowerment Project and Vic Walczak with the ACLU. They requested that the city hold off on the bill until mayor-elect Ed Gainey takes office in early January.

"We want to have the input of the new administration," Stevens said. "Why not wait at this point, until we have the new Gainey administration in place?"

The bill would prohibit officers from pulling motorists for minor violations like a broken tail light, an obstructive view or a lapsed inspection. Such stops have led to incidents that have turned violent or deadly, especially for Black and Brown people.

The letter praised the bill as a "great start ... to address a major issue," but said Gainey "should be given the opportunity to work with council and community leaders to mold this ordinance."

That effort, the letter said, should incorporate more community feedback: "This is a very important issue and Pittsburghers, who work on policing and criminal justice issues locally, should be given an opportunity for input."

They also asked that the city expand the list of violations that would be banned, adding pedestrian stops and "stop and frisk harassment."

An annual police report from 2020 noted that Black motorists were involved in 47 percent of traffic stops by city police — more than twice their share of the population. There are even larger disparities when it comes to pedestrian stops and frisking.

Council was set to vote on the bill on Monday, but it was held. It could receive a final vote next Tuesday.