Report: PPD Stop-And-Frisk Practices Slowly Improving

But one in four stops analyzed by lawyers were made without reasonable suspicion – which is required by law.

Stop-and-frisks conducted by the Philadelphia Police Department declined by 35 percent between 2015-16, according to a new report.

The report is the seventh compiled by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing and Feinberg since they entered a consent decree with the PPD in 2011, following a class-action lawsuit accusing police of illegally stopping, frisking, searching and detaining thousands of people (disproportionately people of color) each year. 

The report released this morning reflects progress – but lawyers say there’s still room for improvement. About one in four of the 140,000 pedestrian stops conducted by police in the second half of 2016 were made without “reasonable suspicion,” which is required by law. (The city reportedly disagreed with this number – officials claim one in five stops were made without reasonable suspicion.) In that time, police conducted about 722 frisks – 27 percent of which were made without reasonable suspicion, and 14 percent of which were preceded by a stop made without reasonable suspicion.

“This Report shows improvements in the PPD stop and frisk practices … Nevertheless, the data shows continuing high rates of non-compliance with both Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment standards, with tens of thousands of persons being stopped and/or frisked without reasonable suspicion by the PPD on an annual basis,” the report reads.

It’s important to note that either way, pedestrian stops rarely result in police discovering contraband (largely guns, drugs or evidence). In the second half of 2016, less than five percent of pedestrian stops yielded contraband.

Also significant: pedestrian stops disproportionately affect minorities. About 77 percent of pedestrian stops and about 87 percent of frisks in the second half of 2016 involved minorities – despite the fact that minorities account for about 57 percent of the city’s racial composition. The lawyers will release a more in-depth race analysis later this month.

Last year, the ACLU pushed the city to make major improvements in its stop-and-frisk policies – specifically regarding their impact on African-American and Latino communities. Since Police Commissioner Richard Ross took over last year, the department has implemented several new internal accountability policies.

During his campaign, Mayor Jim Kenney said he would end stop-and-frisk in the city, though he later clarified that he didn’t plan to halt the practice altogether – just that wants to curb the unconstitutional treatments that result. (He insists his stance on the issue never changed.)

The practice is a crucial topic in the Philly district attorney race.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.