Election 2019

Ballot question: Should Philly hire unarmed traffic cops?

Public safety enforcement officers would patrol city streets.

A regular PPD officer posted at 16th and Chestnut

A regular PPD officer posted at 16th and Chestnut

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

UPDATE May 22: This question was approved with 69 percent of the vote.

Sick of Philly traffic? This might be the ballot measure for you. Might.

Spearheaded by Council President Darrell Clarke, city officials are considering implementing “public safety enforcement officers,” aka traffic cops, who’d patrol Philly streets to help curb the city’s worsening congestion problem.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to require the establishment of “Public Safety Enforcement Officers” to assist the Police Department in regulating the flow of traffic; to enforce and assist the appropriate City officers in the enforcement of ordinances relating to the quality of life in the City’s neighborhoods; and to perform such other related duties as the Managing Director or Council may require?

What does it mean?

If this ballot measure passes, officials will work to employ a class of public safety enforcement officers in Philadelphia. Tasked with providing assistance to the city’s regular police force, they’d watch Philly streets for Vision Zero infractions and traffic issues, help out with special events and enforce quality-of-life crime prevention. These officers would not carry firearms, or have the authority to arrest anyone.

Enforcement agencies like this already exist in cities like New York, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago — and the idea isn’t entirely new to Philly, either.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for quite some time,” Clarke said, “going back a number of administrations and a number of police commissioners.”

At the ballot box, you’ll get to decide whether you want PSEOs on Philly streets.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to make your decision without key details — including how many traffic cops would be employed, how much they’d cost, where they’d patrol, their exact duties, and what kinds of training they’d receive.

Who’s for it and who’s against it?



And since there’s so much info missing, there are some other groups that are optimistic about the idea, but won’t sign on officially until they have more details. This includes:

  • Crosstown Coalition, a network of Philadelphia’s CDCs
  • The neighborhood group Friends of Gold Star Park
  • The Economy League, a local think tank

What other questions are on the ballot?

Access the full Billy Penn procrastinator’s guide to the May primary election here.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2019 stories.

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