After Seven Years, Report Shows Philadelphia Police Continue to Illegally Stop and Frisk Pedestrians

November 20, 2018
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PHILADELPHIA – The latest report filed today by counsel for the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit challenging unconstitutional practices of the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) shows that thousands of people were stopped and frisked without a legal reason in the first six months of 2018. 

The filing reflects analysis of PPD’s own data collection and is part of the enforcement of the consent decree reached in 2011 in Bailey v. City of Philadelphia. The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg, and Lin LLP.

“Philadelphia police officers continue to stop and frisk people without justification,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We’re past the point of accepting the city’s perfunctory statements that they’ll do better. It’s time to start disciplining officers who fail to uphold their oath to the constitution and who treat people unfairly.”

The new data, which covers the period from January to June of this year, shows that 16 percent of pedestrian stops and 30 percent of frisks were conducted without “reasonable suspicion,” the legal standard under the Fourth Amendment. This is an improvement from the first six months of 2017, when 21 percent of stops occurred without reasonable suspicion, but the 16 percent of stops without legal justification represents more than 6,000 people.

“How did Philadelphia police get it wrong 6,000 times?” Shuford asked.

More than 80 percent of the stops and 87 percent of the frisks were of African-Americans and Latinos, who constitute 56 percent of the city’s population.

While PPD has justified the practice as a way to recover illegal firearms, just ten of 741 frisks during the time period led to the recovery of weapons.

A more detailed report on the issue of racial disparities will be filed later this month, and the city will reply to that report in late December.

“Internal accountability is the primary means to ensure a lawful stop-and-frisk program,” said David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg, and Lin LLP. “In 2018, the city agreed to implement a number of accountability measures.  To date, however, these measures have been limited to re-training and counseling and have not resulted in disciplinary sanctions of officers. PPD has reached a point where discipline of officers is necessary to ensure that people’s rights are respected.”

Bailey v. Philadelphia is a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in 2010 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 of disproportionately stopping African-Americans and Latinos. The consent decree, which was agreed to in 2011, 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 aclupa.org/Bailey.

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