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Report Says Stop and Frisk Abuses Continue Despite Settlement

Guns were found in fewer than one percent of frisks by Philadelphia Police, a new report says. (George Donnelly/
Guns were found in fewer than one percent of frisks by Philadelphia Police, a new report says. (George Donnelly/
March 23, 2016

PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia Police continue to stop and frisk pedestrians without suspicion and disproportionately target minorities, according to a new report.

In 2011 the Philadelphia Police Department agreed to reform its stop and frisk practices under the settlement of a federal lawsuit.

But the report, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and a private law firm, found data from the first six months of last year shows little has changed.

David Rudovsky, a founding partner and criminal defense attorney with the firm Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing and Feinberg, says in 33 percent of stops police did not have the required "reasonable suspicion".

"And beyond that, when we monitor all the frisks, that is situations where the police supposedly have a good reason to think someone's armed and dangerous, in fewer than one percent of the cases is a weapon discovered," says Rudovsky.

The data also showed that while racial minorities make up half of the city's population, blacks and Latinos accounted for three quarters of all stops and almost 90 percent of frisks.

In a conference before the judge Tuesday morning, the city outlined steps it will take to improve adherence to the terms of the consent decree and establish better accountability.

Rudovsky points out if there is no improvement there are actions the court can take.

"The judge has wide discretion at that point in terms of monetary sanctions or other penalties that can be imposed if the city doesn't comply," he says.

Some large cities maintain records of police tactics such as stop and frisk, but Rudovsky says unless the stops result in arrests, most municipalities do not. And that makes it difficult to know just how widespread and pervasive any police abuses are.

"This is not unique to Philadelphia," he says. "Pro-active policing, which stop and frisk is part of, carries with it enormous risks of interfering with innocent people's lives and privacy."

In 2013 a federal court ruled that New York City Police had engaged in a similar pattern of unconstitutional stops and frisks.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA