Attorneys and the ACLU say Philadelphia police did not have proper cause for a search in 45 percent of pedestrian “stop and frisks.”
The latest analysis is part of ongoing monitoring the city agreed to in settling lawsuits.
As part of that settlement, lawyers for the plaintiffs have access to extensive data on police stops and arrests.
In 2011, Philadelphia police recorded more than a quarter million pedestrian stops. In 2012, that number fell by 15 percent to 215,000.
However, said Attorney David Rudovsky, who brought the original lawsuit with the ACLU, “There are a large number of stops where police are simply writing down as a reason for the stop that they are in a high-crime area, that they’re in a high drug area, that they are involved in ‘a disturbance’ or that they are loitering or lounging in a certain area.”
“We have agreed with the city, based on what the Supreme Court has said, that those grounds are not sufficient to stop and frisk somebody.”
Rudovsky said the importance of the latest report is that it looks at the time after the police finished retraining and introducing new rules that were also a part of the court settlement.
Rudovsky says changing the culture of stop and frisk has turned out to be very difficult.
“As much as the mayor and the police commissioner, we think, are asking in good faith and trying to change this practice, it’s going to take longer than we thought.”
Police: Better documentation needed for stops
Philadelphia police officials say the problems lie, not in the searches, but in the documentation written up by officers. Mayor Michael Nutter had not yet read the report, as of early Tuesday afternoon but said that, regardless:
“We will continue, of course, to train and retrain our officers and make sure that they are utilizing this particular tactic in the appropriate legal and constitutional fashion while at the same time trying to do their jobs and make sure that the city is safe,” Nutter said.
Philadelphia is not the only city where pedestrian searches have caused tension.
In New York this week, a trial began in a class-action lawsuit brought over stop and frisk practices.