Lawyers Say Stop-and-Frisk Still Targets Black Residents in Philly

A report found that police are slowly improving the practice – but minorities are still far more likely to be stopped than whites.

A report released earlier this month found that stop-and-frisk practices were slowly improving in Philly.

But follow-up analysis compiled by the same group – plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the city – claims that stop-and-frisk still disproportionately affects minority residents – particularly black men and women.

According to data released yesterday, black pedestrians accounted for 70 percent of stop-and-frisks conducted in Philly in the second half of 2016. Black and Latino residents were the target of 77 percent of stop-and-frisks during that same time period.

The city and the Philadelphia Police Department contend that minority pedestrians are stopped more often than whites because officers focus their activity in majority-minority neighborhoods with higher violent crime rates. But the recent analysis disputes that claim and asserts 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.”

The report comes from lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing and Feinberg, which entered a consent decree with the PPD in 2011, following a class-action lawsuit that accused police of illegally stopping, frisking and detaining thousands of people (largely people of color) each year.

Overall, the recent analysis shows improvement: stop-and-frisks conducted by the PPD declined by 35 percent between 2015-16. But the lawyers and the city disagree over different parts of the analysis: lawyers claim 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, while the city alleges that one in five stops were made without reasonable suspicion.

More information, other reports and legal documents are available the ACLU’s website.

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