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May 24, 2017

Do Philly cops target black residents for stop and frisk? Reports from city, ACLU lawyers differ

Reports filed in federal court Tuesday in a stop-and-frisk lawsuit against the city contradict on whether Philadelphia police still target black men and women for pedestrian stops.

The reports were filed by the city and the group of civil rights attorneys behind a 2010 lawsuit over the city’s stop-and-frisk practices.

An analysis conducted by David Abrams, an expert hired by the civil rights attorneys, found that while African Americans make up 46 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 70 percent of those stopped in the second half of 2016. The findings found little change from 2015, according to a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

“In addition, the data in the new expert report shows 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,” according to the ACLU.

The city contradicted Abrams’ analysis in its own report, finding “no statistically significant differences in the rates at which Black and non-Hispanic White pedestrians are stopped.” The city’s report, conducted by Temple University Professor Ralph Taylor, also showed that Hispanic pedestrians were stopped at significantly lower rates than non-Hispanic Whites. 

And it found “no statistically significant differences between non-Hispanic White and black pedestrians in the likelihood that a pedestrian stop would be sufficiently premised on reasonable suspicion.”

The Philadelphia Police Department recorded 35 percent fewer pedestrian stops in 2016 than 2015, and that report also found a greater number of stops made with reasonable suspicion.

The department is under a court-ordered independent monitor charged with overseeing changes to ensure more stops are not motivated by race.

Reports filed on May 2 found that the department has made strides on its stop-and-frisk practices in the six years since the city agreed to have an independent monitor oversee changes to ensure stops are not motivated by race.

Those reports found a 35 percent decrease in the number of stops in the second half of 2016 compared to 2015 and that three out of four stops were based off reasonable suspicion, compared to 67 percent in 2015. But it still found that roughly 140,000 people were stopped in 2016, including 35,000 of which were illegal stops.