Latest Stop-and-Frisk Data Shows Modest Improvement by Philadelphia Police, but Much More is Needed, Say Civil Rights Lawyers

May 02, 2017
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 PHILADELPHIA  – The ACLU of Pennsylvania and the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg LLP filed a report today that provides the first glimpse of how the Kenney administration has addressed problems with the “stop-and-frisk” practices of the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD). 

While the report, which is part of the monitoring process ordered in a 2011 consent decree, shows a drop in pedestrian stops and an increase in officers giving legal reasons for both stops and frisks in 2016, it also shows a continuing practice by PPD to stop large numbers of Black and Latino people. And the data indicates that thousands of Philadelphians are still stopped illegally by police officers.

“The improvement in the 2016 numbers shows the effectiveness of the steps taken to this point by Commissioner Ross, but the numbers also show us that there is much more to be done,” said David Rudovsky, counsel for plaintiffs. “We are still waiting for the full implementation of the supervisory review and accountability measures that the city promised to implement a year ago.”

The report examines data from the second half of 2016 and is the first review since the lawyers issued an ultimatum to the new city administration to fix the problems or face sanctions in federal court.  The report states that PPD officers stopped 35 percent fewer pedestrians in 2016 as compared to 2015 and finds that PPD officers gave a legal reason in a higher percentage of stops (75 percent) and frisks (59 percent) in 2016 as compared to 2015.

But in light of the approximately 140,000 pedestrian stops for 2016, that means that 35,000 persons in Philadelphia continue to be stopped illegally each year.  Over 77 percent of PPD stops were of Black or Latino people, who make up just over half of the city’s population.  A subsequent report, due to be released on May 16, will analyze the racial disparities in these numbers. The presiding federal judge will review the case soon after that. 

“The Philadelphia Police Department’s improvement is cold comfort for the thousands of people, largely people of color, who experience the trauma of illegal stops and frisks by police officers,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “While we appreciate the commissioner's efforts, the people of Philadelphia are still waiting for an end to illegal stops, six years after the city agreed to do just that.” 

Today’s report is part of the monitoring process created by a 2011 consent decree inBailey v. Philadelphia, a 2010 lawsuit alleging that 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 and Latinos. The consent decree requires that stops be made only when there is reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, that frisks only occur where the officer has reasonable suspicion that the suspect is armed and dangerous, and that these police interventions not be based on the suspect’s race or ethnicity.

The plaintiffs are represented by David Rudovsky, Paul Messing, and Susan Lin of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg LLP; Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; and Seth Kreimer, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

A copy of today’s report, previous reports, and the original complaint can be found at: www.aclupa.org/bailey

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