Sunday, August 2, 2015

Report finds problems persist with city's stop-and-frisk policy

Updated 6:17 p.m. to include response from Mayor Nutter and Police Department

Report finds problems persist with city's stop-and-frisk policy


Updated 6:17 p.m. to include response from Mayor Nutter and Police Department

Although the number of Philadelphians stopped under the city's controversial stop-and-frisk policy has dropped by 15 percent, an analysis by civil rights groups shows that many stops are still made without "reasonable suspicion."

The American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg filed a report in federal court today that found that the number of stops had decreased from 253,000 in 2009 to 215,000 in 2012, but a large number of the stops --45 percent violated the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

A class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in 2010 over the stop-and-frisk policy, charging that minorities were targeted and stops were often made without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. A settlement was announced in 2011 in which the city agreed to procedural changes including a review of training, a distribution of information related to investigatory stops, as well as the creation of a data base with stop reports.

Attorney David Rudovsky said the report shows that the city is coming up short in reaching its goal of ensuring stop-and-frisk practices are fair and legal. He added the Police Department will need to improve its monitoring and supervision systems to meet stated goals or the court will be asked to impose sanctions.

Mayor Nutter, who has supported the stop-and-frisk policy as a tool to help drive down crime, said he had not read the report, but that the city is working with the civil rights groups.

"We're working with the outside monitors and we will continue to train and retrain our officers and make sure that they are utilizing this particular tactic in the appropriate legal, constitutional fashion, while at the same time trying to do their jobs making sure that the city is safe," Nutter said.

On the otherhand the Police Department refutes that officers are stopping people without reasonable suspicion and that the problem lies in officers not clearly articulating the reasons for the stops.

"We would refute that. We have a problem with documentation of stops," said Capt. Francis Healy, special advisor to the Police Commissioner. "It's not a fact that we're making illegal stops."

The report also included a two-month citywide analysis of marijuana arrests that show alarming racial disparities. From September to November of 2012 African-Americans made up 84 percent of marijuana arrests and whites roughly 6 percent. Meanwhile marijuana use is evidenced to be higher among whites than African-Americans.

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William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to
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