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City council passes bill to bar minor traffic stops, while activists urge it to pump brakes

Gene J. Puskar

Pittsburgh City Council has passed a law to bar police from pulling drivers over for minor offenses like a lapsed inspection, obstructed window view, or a broken tail light. But during a public comment period prior to the Tuesday vote, some police accountability advocates urged a delay

"If this legislation is supposed to address the issues of the community ... then how can we do that if the community doesn't have input on the legislation itself?" asked Daeja Baker, a public speaker who urged that council have a hearing on the legislation so Black and brown voices could be heard before passing it.

Speakers also asked that council hold off until Ed Gainey is sworn in as mayor next week: Gainey ran on a platform of police reform, and the conduct of city police was a key issue in his bid to topple outgoing Mayor Bill Peduto.

Council voted for the bill by an 8-1 margin anyway, with support from Deb Gross, the lone council member to publicly endorse Gainey during the 2021 primary.

"I do hear the concern about allowing our next mayor Ed Gainey to endeavor on his own version of police reform," she said. "But I do feel like today is a small and judicious step that just continues to keep this issue in front of us."

Councilor Anthony Coghill was the only no vote, and on Tuesday, he agreed with calls to delay the vote.

"Why are you not allowing the opportunity for the public to voice their opinions for an issue that is so important?" he asked. "Why are we not waiting for the next mayor who ran on police reform so he can take ownership of this as well as we can?"

But it's unclear that Coghill would have supported the measure even after such a pause: He has previously stated that he felt the data didn't support a need for the bill.

Last week a group of police accountability advocates sent a letter to the city asking them to wait to pass the bill until Gainey was sworn in, and to expand its list of violations minor enough to not warrant a stop on their own.