Media Contact

April 27, 2020

PHILADELPHIA — The ACLU of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin and Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, has released a new round of of reports under a 2011 consent decree that requires the city of Philadelphia to cease unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices. 

The reports, which were filed in federal court last week, analyze police activity during the last six months of 2019 and show that, while the percentage of stops conducted without reasonable suspicion remained the same, the percentage of illegal frisks saw an uptick, compared to the first half of 2018, which was the last time that the city’s compliance with the consent decree was reported. The reports also show that communities of color —particularly the Black community— are disproportionately impacted by stop-and-frisk, with stops of Black Philadelphians accounting for 71% of the stops analyzed in the report. 

“We recognize that the city of Philadelphia has made some progress towards ending the practice of illegal stops and frisks in the years since 2011,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “However, more work remains to be done to end all illegal frisks and to answer the question why people of color continue to suffer undue scrutiny from some police officers. And it is important that the police department enforce its new disciplinary system with respect to those officers and supervisors who repeatedly engage in or fail to correct illegal stops and frisks.”

The first of the two reports considers whether police stops of pedestrians in the second half of 2019 were supported by reasonable suspicion and whether frisks of pedestrians were justified by evidence the pedestrian was armed. The analysis shows that 16 percent of stops occurred without a finding of reasonable suspicion, affecting approximately 6,000 people. 

The second report analyzes the racial demographics of who is stopped and who is subject to a search and shows that Black pedestrians are 50 percent more likely to be stopped by police without reasonable suspicion than white pedestrians.

“This report reveals that a high percentage of the stops were made for ‘quality of life’ offenses like public consumption of alcohol,” said Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Police officers who stop people under reasonable suspicion should be focusing on potential crimes that put public safety at risk. So-called ‘quality of life’ stops should be the lowest priority for Philadelphia police.”  

You can find last week’s reports, past reports, and details of the lawsuit here