Racial Analysis Suggests Philly Police Still Stop Pedestrians Based on Race

May 23, 2017
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PHILADELPHIA – In the ongoing monitoring process to enforce a 2011 consent decree, an expert analysis filed today in federal court indicates that police officers in Philadelphia continue to stop and frisk some pedestrians based on race. The new filing, which was submitted by attorneys for the plaintiffs, supplements a report filed on May 2 but, unlike the previous report, specifically analyzes the available data on the race of pedestrians who are stopped and frisked by officers of the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD).

“We recognize that the city, under the leadership of Mayor Kenney and Commissioner Ross, has shown improvement, as stops have decreased and legal justification for those stops has increased,” said Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. “But improvement is not the goal. The goal is to treat people fairly and to respect people’s constitutional rights.

“This newest report suggests that some people in Philadelphia are still facing unfair treatment because of their race.”

The earlier filing indicated that 77 percent of people stopped in the last six months of 2016 were Black or Latino while Black and Latino people make up just over half of the city’s general population. The new analysis disputes the city’s claim that this disparity in stops can be explained by the demographics and crime rates of neighborhoods where stops occur. While stops of Black people are roughly equivalent to their percentage of the population in police service areas (PSA) with near-100 percent Black populations, pedestrian stops of people of color do not decrease proportionate to their decrease in population in areas across the city. In other words, stops of Black people remain high, even as their representation in the population of a neighborhood drops.

In addition, the data in the new expert report shows that Black pedestrians are far more likely to be stopped in neighborhoods with a low crime rate and a low percentage of Black residents, deflating the city’s argument that the high rate of stops of people of color is increased by stops that occur in neighborhoods where more crime occurs.

“This report shows a continuing pattern of significant racial disparities in stops and frisks in Philadelphia that are not explained by non-racial factors such as crime rates or police deployment,” said David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Racial justice must be more than a goal. It is the hallmark of fair policing and the requirement of the consent decree.

“We urge the police department to take the steps necessary to ensure equal protection under the law.”

The plaintiffs filed a similar racial analysis for 2015, and the report for 2016 shows very little change. While some police service areas showed improvement, others had even greater disparities in 2016 than in 2015.

With reports now filed by both the plaintiffs and the city, the next step in the monitoring process will be a meeting between the parties, to be scheduled by the court.

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 summary and the entirety of today’s report are available at www.aclupa.org/bailey, along with additional documents related to the litigation.

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