Episode 3: The police

Central to the question of solving Philly's gun violence crisis is the role law enforcement should play in the most affected neighborhoods.

Listen 30:36
Hundreds march in West Philadelphia over the Philly police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.

File photo: Hundreds march in West Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2020 over the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

This episode is from Stop and Frisk, a podcast production from WHYY News and Temple University’s Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting.

Find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Stop and Frisk: Revisit or Resist,” a five-episode podcast produced by WHYY and Temple University’s Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting at the Klein College of Media and Communication, looks at how the controversial policing practice has reentered discussions about public safety in light of Philadelphia’s ongoing gun violence crisis.

Over the summer, Philadelphia City Council members discussed more visible enforcement of stop and frisk as a solution to gun violence. Many community members feel the controversial strategy will inevitably lead to police making unjustified stops of Black men, while others see it as a way to instill a sense of order in their neighborhoods.

In Episode 3, reporters Yvonne Latty and Sammy Caiola go on a ride-along with Sgt. Michael Spicer of the Philadelphia Police Department. They visit the 24th Police District encompassing Kensington and Allegheny avenues — an area of the city known for its open-air drug sales and high rates of gun violence.

Spicer says the threshold for stopping and frisking someone is much more strict than it used to be, which makes officers hesitant to disrupt what they believe is criminal activity.

“If we truly enacted that, we’d be able to jump out there because it’s a known drug corner and we’d be able to put everybody on the wall and frisk them,” he said. “We don’t do that … we can’t just stop them for standing there.”

A disclosure: Michael Spicer was one of six officers acquitted for beating up drug dealers and taking their money. He was charged in 2012 and acquitted in 2015, and then promoted to sergeant that same year.

This podcast episode also explores how policing tactics — from the MOVE bombing to the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. — have impacted Black Philadelphians.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal