Philly will ask voters to approve new breed of traffic cops

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia is one step closer to adding a new type of traffic cop on the streets and it could be on the May primary ballot.

City Council approved changing Philadelphia’s city charter Thursday to create public safety workers to assist police in traffic control and certain enforcement actions. Council President Darrell Clarke says he’s hopeful in a year they can be on the job and free up police for other duties.

“Our ability to manage traffic in an appropriate way far surpasses the concerns about the revenue involved in this while we are not replacing police officers we are establishing a workforce that clearly from a revenue perspective will not be as nearly as costly as a police officer,” Clarke said.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross spoke in support of the proposal during a hearing on the proposal.

“In addition to easing the flow of traffic and allowing police officers to do law enforcement work, [the new officers] will help with visibility,” Ross said.

A 2018 report from the Center City District found the number of residents in the core of Center City—river to river, between Vine and Pine Streets — increased by 30 percent since 2000.

The rise in population, along with an uptick in traffic from delivery trucks and ride-hailing vehicles, has increased traffic congestion substantially.  A growing number of bicycle commuters also raises concerns about cars illegally parked in bike lanes.

Clarke says the officers would help the city implement its Vision Zero program, which aims to eliminate all traffic-related deaths by 2030.

He expects it will go to Philadelphia voters for approval on the May primary ballot.

He adds that the first step after approval by the voters would be to establish civil service regulations.  Those regulations would determine how much the new employees would be paid and their duties and training. It would also cover which union would represent the officers.

The Fraternal Order of Police is against the proposal saying it would result in fewer officers on the streets, a contention Clarke denies.

Darryl C. Murphy contributed to this report.

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