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In 2010, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, together with the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, sued the Philadelphia Police Department alleging the department was unconstitutionally targeting people of color via so-called “stop and frisk” policies.

That lawsuit, Bailey v. Philadelphia, was a class action filed “on behalf of eight African-American and Latino men who were stopped by Philadelphia police officers solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity,” explains the ACLU. “The suit alleges that thousands of people each year are illegally stopped, frisked, searched, and detained by the Philadelphia Police Department as part of its stop-and-frisk policy.”

In 2011, Philadelphia settled the suit with the plaintiffs, agreeing to “collect data on all stop and frisks and store this information in an electronic database.” The Philadelphia Police Department also agreed to “provide officers with necessary training and supervision with respect to stop and frisk practices.”

Apparently, based upon the ACLU’s report, the PPD is doing a lousy job.

“Despite having almost four years to improve its stop and frisk practices, the PPD continues to illegally stop and frisk tens of thousands of individuals,” according to the ACLU. “Although Philadelphia’s population is 42.26 percent white, 43.22 percent black, and 8.5 percent Hispanic, 80.23 percent of [police] stops were of minorities. The disparity was even greater for frisks, with minority residents accounting for 89.15 percent of frisks.”

Most distressingly, the ACLU claims that 95 percent of all frisks result in no evidence being found by police. And, the ACLU says nearly half of all stops and frisks had no reasonable suspicion to happen in the first place.

When reached for comment by Philly Now, the Philadelphia Police Department said it was aware of the ACLU’s recent filing and “the law department will [be] responding accordingly via the courts. The department will not release any rebuttal prior to taking the appropriate legal action through the courts.”

“Stop and frisk” is one of those catchphrases used nowadays to determine one’s approach toward urban policing. On one side, you’ve got self-described law-and-order types who say if people aren’t doing anything wrong, they shouldn’t mind being stopped and questioned by police. On the other side, you’ve got, well, everybody else claiming that this is America, and people have a right to privacy without being harassed by police.

Generally speaking, though, the liberal tack is that it’s a bad policy that fosters distrust between minority communities and police.

“Over-policing in communities of color does nothing to make the public safer. The Philadelphia Police Department needs to make residents their partners—not their targets,” argues Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We hope the next mayor, who will undoubtedly have to deal with this problem, will prioritize true community policing over racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk practices.”

In fact, New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, built his successful candidacy in opposition to stop and frisk. Here in Philadelphia, former city councilman and current mayoral candidate Jim Kenney vociferously holds, and asserts, a similar position.

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists in both 2014 and 2015 and the Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the U.S. and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia in 2014; and, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association presented him with the Edith Hughes Emerging Journalist Award in 2015. Along with his column, Josh blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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