PHILADELPHIA – In every neighborhood in Philadelphia, Black pedestrians were stopped by police officers out of proportion to their percentage of the local population, according to the latest report filed in federal court today in the ongoing challenge to the city police department’s aggressive use of stop-and-frisk. The latest filing shows that racial disparities in stops are widest in neighborhoods in which Black Philadelphians make up a lower percentage of the population and that the disparities cannot be explained by factors other than race.
The report is the latest filing in the continuing enforcement of a 2011 consent decree agreed to by the city to settle a lawsuit that charged that the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) used stop-and-frisk against pedestrians without legal justification and disproportionately against people of color.
“The PPD’s aggressive use of stop-and-frisk was racially biased from the moment it started, and it seems the department is still unfairly targeting people of color,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which represents the plaintiffs in the case. “But our determination to stop this unfair, unconstitutional behavior is as great now as it was the day we filed this case.”
The racial analysis follows on the heels of a report on the legal justifications for stops and frisks that was filed with the federal court last week. Both reports are based on pedestrian stops from the first six months of 2018.
The Philadelphia police stopped fewer pedestrians in the first half of 2018 than in any of the prior years of the consent decree. But, as the racial analysis that was filed today shows, Black men are still stopped more often than any other group, and the racial disparities in stops are “statistically significant” and “are not explainable by non-racial factors.” Even the welcome drop in stops has not diminished the racial disparities, as white pedestrians have seen a greater drop in stops than Black pedestrians.
The report flags several areas of the city where racial disparities in stops are particularly noticeable. In police service area (PSA) 91 in Center City, west of Broad Street, 60 percent of the stops were of Black pedestrians, in an area where the population is only five percent Black. In PSA 12 in South Philadelphia, the Black population is three percent but Black pedestrians accounted for 58 percent of stops.
“The city has never explained why Black Philadelphians are stopped more frequently than others, even in neighborhoods where they make up a very small percentage of the population,” said Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and co-lead counsel in the case. “The city needs to explain why that is happening and explain what they are going to do to change it. We cannot continue to police white Philadelphians one way and Philadelphians of color another way.
“The city has four weeks to respond to this report. From there, we will weigh our options, including asking the court for additional measures for accountability.”
“During his campaign, Mayor Kenney made a pledge to put an end to stop-and-frisk practices that violated constitutional guarantees against arbitrary stops and racial bias. We understood that he had a huge undertaking ahead of him,” said David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg, and Lin LLP, co-counsel in the case. “But we cannot rest easy while thousands of people are subjected to impermissible stops and frisks every year. We are looking to the city for deeper cuts in stops without cause and in racial disparities in 2019.”
Bailey v. Philadelphia is a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in 2010 alleging that the Philadelphia police had a 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.