PHILADELPHIA – The latest analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department’s (PPD) practice of stopping and frisking pedestrians shows the department continued to make some limited progress last year while still illegally stopping thousands of people, according to the lawyers for the plaintiffs in a 2010 lawsuit against the city.
The report, which tracks data from the first six months of 2017 and was filed in federal court on Friday, indicates that stops have declined to a rate that is half of what it was in 2010. However, the analysis also shows that as many as 20,000 people were stopped in 2017 without a justifiable reason, that two of every five frisks occur without cause, and that racial disparities in stops remain.
“Seven years into this lawsuit, Philadelphia police continue to illegally stop people, especially people of color,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. “We recognize the progress that the department has made and do not want to minimize that. But its inability to get this completely right does real damage to the people of Philadelphia.”
Stops that occurred without reasonable suspicion – the legal standard that police must follow - fell to 20 percent of all stops. Officers also did not have reasonable suspicion in 40 percent of frisks, a number that has not declined since 2016.
Meanwhile, less than one percent of frisks lead to the recovery of a firearm, undercutting officers’ rationale that they conduct frisks because they believe a person is armed.
Racial disparities also remain, even after controlling for other factors, with African-Americans accounting for 69 percent of stops from January to June in a city in which they are 48 percent of the population.
Under the administration of Mayor James Kenney and PPD Commissioner Richard Ross, new accountability processes have been implemented to diminish unconstitutional stops and frisks. The administration has increased training for officers and counseling for individual officers and supervisors.
But the lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that the city must go further.
“The city has finally, after many years, instituted some internal accountability measures, beyond mere audits of the stop data,” said David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg, and Lin LLP. “But far more is needed, including sanctions and discipline of officers and supervisors who are repeat offenders.”
The disproportionate impact of the stop-and-frisk practice on Black Philadelphians continues to vex the city. In the analysis of stops in individual police service areas, the percentage of African-Americans stopped by police was higher than their percentage of the population in a large majority of these areas.
Today’s report is part of the monitoring process created by a 2011 consent decree in Bailey 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, and Lin 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.