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    Illegal Stops and Frisks in Philadelphia – By a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer

    Illegal stops and frisks by the Philadelphia police has been a problem in the City of Philadelphia.  In 2010, the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal class action suit against the City of Philadelphia on behalf of eight African American and Latino men who were racially profiled.  The ACLU alleged that the police had a pattern conducting unreasonable search and seizures of blacks and Latinos, who were racially profiled.  See Bailey, et al. v.  City of Philadelphia, et al. 

    The case settled in 2011, and as part of the settlement agreement, the Philadelphia Police Department had to work toward eliminating unlawful stops.  In addition, the police department was required to collect data and file reports on the department’s stop and frisk practices as part of the consent decree.  The ACLU also has been monitoring stop and frisk activity since the settlement.

    Related: Stop and Frisk in Philadelphia Criminal Drug Cases

    A report for 2014 showed that 37% of the stops were unlawful.  According to the ACLU, the number of unlawful frisks was even higher.  The report for 2015 showed a similar pattern.  The judge then ordered the Philadelphia Police to implement an accountability system, which started in the beginning of 2016.

    Since then, reports filed by the City and ACLU showed that there has been a decrease in improper stops and frisks.  In the second half of 2016, 57,828 pedestrians were stopped, a 35% decline from the first half of 2016.  The Police Department found that fewer than 20% of the stops lacked reasonable suspicion, whereas the ACLU’s report found that 25% lacked reasonable suspicion.

    Although this may seem to be a good result, numbers also indicated that racial profiling has not decreased according to the ACLU’s report.  Some of the ACLU’s key findings are as follows:

    • Of those stopped, 70% were blacks, 23% were white and 7% were Latino.
    • The average person stopped was a 33 year old black male.
    • Black pedestrians were stopped 2x more often as white pedestrians.
    • Black pedestrians were 50% more likely to be frisked or patted down compared to white pedestrians.
    • 25% of the stops and about 41% of pat downs lacked reasonable suspicion.

    These numbers show that the Philadelphia Police Department still has work to do in terms of decreasing the number of illegal stops and frisks.

    Help After an Illegal Stop and Seizure in Philadelphia

    Although the number of illegal stops has decreased in Philadelphia, they are still happening.  If you or a family member was stopped by the police and frisked and think that the stop may have been illegal, call David Nenner, a top rated Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. 215.564.0644


    • [Illegal Stops and Frisks by Philly Police Decline, but More Effort Necessary]
    • [Op-ed: ACLU report on Philly stop-and-frisk is nothing to celebrate]

    David S. Nenner

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