Quite publicized were the findings from the Department of Justice regarding policing in Baltimore, where more than 600,000 people reside, and in Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city which houses roughly 1.5 million people.
The residents of Baltimore for a length of time untold had their constitutional rights violated often via unlawful pedestrian stops – detainments done in the absence of reasonable suspicion – and excessive force; black Baltimoreans were disproportionately affected by the malfeasance. In Philadelphia, whose history of violent policing is widely known, residents were served by a force that didn’t receive regular, consistent training on the department’s deadly force policy, which in itself was, according to the report, ambiguous.
Lesser known, though, is exactly how these police departments, which both have appointed police commissioners who are relatively new to the position – Mr. Richard Ross of Philadelphia took office in January of 2016 and Mr. Kevin Davis of Baltimore dropped “interim” from his handle in October of 2015, though he was initially a placeholder after Mr. Anthony Batts in April of 2015 was relieved of his duties following the death of 25 year-old Mr. Freddie Gray, who died from injuries sustained while in police custody – are going about righting their wrongs. The observing public in Baltimore and Philadelphia is aware that there’s said to be now an emphasis on training but few details are ever touted on the type of education the officers are consuming.
Of particular interest to Techbook Online – the Philadelphia-based news and event company that in April of this year organized a stop-and-frisk town hall attended by the Mayor and the Police Commissioner –was how these two departments, which both have proven to be flawed in the area of pedestrian stops, were reforming that practice. As a result of said interest, an investigation ensued and the findings showed that Baltimore, in the area of stop-and-frisk trainings, outdoes Philadelphia in way that’s both heartening and concerning.
Heartening because it appears the Baltimore Police Department, though found to be, at times, a corrupt organization, is pursuing innovative methods to improve itself. Commissioner Davis, who on behalf of the department this month apologized to all residents who experienced unconstitutional policing, remarked in an recent interview about the City’s relatively new stop-and-frisk training, which I learned during my investigation is year-round at the police academy, five-days long, and includes hands-on scenarios that are evaluated.
According to Lt. Jarron Jackson, the extensive policy review and training, implemented in 2015, includes field interviews, investigate stops, weapon pat downs and searches. Groups of Baltimore police officers throughout the year attend day-long trainings at the academy, and, for rookies, they also receive classroom instruction. All of the aforementioned is in addition to the roll-call trainings which occur several times a week.
The concerning part comes in when one takes into consideration that illegal stops in Philadelphia were so pervasive that the ACLU in 2010 filed a class-action lawsuit that resulted in a 2011 consent decree, and yet the City, in terms of direct service education, has only offered roll-call training on stop-and-frisk, which amounts to nothing more than reminders on correctly filling out paperwork and performing pedestrian stops only when reasonable suspicion is present.
From my conversation with Lt. John Stanford, it appears the direct service education on stop-and-frisk is minimal – this year the Municipal Officer Training was amended to include some form of instruction on pedestrian stops but nothing as articulated as what’s happening in Baltimore – because the police department, like Mayor Jim Kenney, continues to push a narrative that officers were never trained to perform stops-and-frisks – which is troubling when juxtaposed with the fact the former police commissioner in 2008 recommended using aggressive yet lawful stop-and-frisk tactics to combat rising gun violence – nor does that language exist within the department’s internal lexicon, though the 2008 recommendation from Mr. Charles Ramsey in his crime-fighting strategy presented to then Mayor Michael A. Nutter in January shows that not to be true.
This year, after it was shown that the 2015 stop-and-frisk data highlighted little progress in reducing the amount of illegal stops performed, the Philadelphia Police Department instituted a progressive discipline, which means consequences are handed out when an officer engages in unconstitutional policing, but the punishments aren’t formalized as policy but rather it appears the Commissioner and other high-ranking officials use their discretion and judge each incident separately – a consequence could mean just a stern rebuke or counseling.
In short: following the 2010 class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Philadelphia police officers weren’t receiving regular, consistent, curriculum-based training on the department’s stop-and-frisk policy, which apparently doesn’t exist, let alone engaging in scenarios at the police academy.
This month it’s expected that the police commissioner and those who filed the class-action lawsuit will go before a federal judge who may, if not impressed with reforms and data, order sanctions against the City. Given the numbers haven’t approved greatly, and the stop-and-frisk training is sub-par, it’s likely Philadelphia may be paying for its bad deeds in tax dollars and cents.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.