Philadelphia Police Continue to Stop Tens of Thousands Illegally

February 24, 2015
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Plaintiffs Will Return to Court If Improvements Are Not Made

PHILADELPHIA - The ACLU of Pennsylvania and the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP, filed a report today as part of the monitoring process of the 2011 consent decree in Bailey v. Philadelphia, a lawsuit filed in 2010 alleging that Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) officers had a pattern and practice of stopping and frisking pedestrians without reasonable suspicion that the person was involved in criminal activity and disproportionately stopping African-Americans. Today’s report shows that 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. 

 “This report shows that while the police department has made some improvements in its stop and frisk practices, there are still far too many persons—tens of thousands each year—who are stopped and frisked without legal justification. In our view, the city must move very decisively to ensure that stops are made only where there is reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. Failing such action, we will seek court intervention to secure full compliance with the consent decree,” said David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP.

Today’s report is the fifth filed with the court and court-appointed monitor since the consent decree was put in place. According to the report, 37 percent of the over 200,000 pedestrian stops in 2014 were made without reasonable suspicion, and thus a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Of the frisks, only 47 percent were made based on reasonable suspicion.

Although Philadelphia’s population is 42.26 percent white, 43.22 percent black, and 8.5 percent Hispanic, 80.23 percent of stops were of minorities. The disparity was even greater for frisks, with minority residents accounting for 89.15 percent of frisks. Applying appropriate benchmarks on the issue of racially disproportionate stops, the report states that factors other than race (for example, crime rates and police deployment) do not fully explain the racially disparate rates.

“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,” said 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.”

According to the report,  a strong  metric for determining whether police were justified in a frisk is the “hit-rate,” or whether weapons or other contraband are seized. Police must have a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is armed and dangerous before a frisk can be conducted.  In 95 percent of all frisks, no evidence was seized.

More about Bailey v. Philadelphia, including a copy of today’s report, can be found at: www.aclupa.org/bailey

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