In late November, the city touted the most significant drop in pedestrian stops since Mr. Jim Kenney and Mr. Richard Ross assumed the role of Mayor and Police Commissioner, respectively, in January of 2016.
The first two quarters of 2018 yielded 41,661 pedestrian stops, which is a nearly 50 percent decline from the first two quarters of 2016.
At the end of Mayor Kenney’s first full year, the Philadelphia Police Department reported a grand total of 139,441 pedestrian stops, which the city at that time claimed was the lowest count since the inception of Bailey v. City of Philadelphia, a 2010 class action lawsuit which alleged that thousands of people each year were illegally stopped, frisked, searched, and detained by the Philadelphia Police Department.
In 2011, the City of Philadelphia then ran by Mayor Michael A. Nutter, and the ACLU, announced a settlement agreement which required PPD to thoroughly collect data on stops and frisks and provide officers additional trainings.
“The push on stops have reversed. We’re down to pre-Nutter numbers,” Mary Catherine Roper, who serves as Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, told me by phone last Wednesday.
The police commissioner is proud of the decline.
“We’re working very hard, as the numbers suggest already,” Mr. Ross told me last Thursday during an exclusive face-to-face interview in the lobby of his headquarters.
Mr. Kenney and Mr. Ross surely deserve credit for overseeing a drastic reduction in pedestrian stops. But the praise heaped on the duo, particularly the mayor, should be moderate.
Why? Because the mayor’s real goal, which was to eliminate the policy’s targeting of Black and Brown people that resulted in jarring racial disparities, remains unrealized.
ACLU PA last week released a racial analysis of the first half of 2018 using a sample set of 3,963 pedestrian stops. 71 percent of stopped pedestrians were black, two percentage points higher than the first half of 2017, the report states.
And of the 71 percent of Blacks stopped, 16 percent were in done in absence of reasonable suspicion, a percentage, which according to the ACLU, was fairly equitable across racial groups.
However, there’s nothing equitable about what’s occurring in a number of the city’s police service areas. In some
Philadelphia neighborhoods where the Black population is minuscule, they make up more than half of those stopped.
For example, in PSA 2 in the 1st Police District, which encompasses the Navy Yard, Blacks are only 3 percent of the population but account for 58 percent of those stopped.
And in PSA 1 in the 9th District, which encompasses the swanky Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, where earlier this year two black men were arrested for trespassing while sitting in a Starbucks, Blacks are only 5 percent of the population but account for 60 percent of those stopped.
There are police service areas where more Whites were stopped than Blacks. But accounting for their population, Blacks were disproportionately stopped. For example, in the 5th Police District, 269 Whites were stopped compared to 192 Blacks.
But in PSA 1 in the 5th Police District, which encompasses the Walnut Lane Golf Course, Blacks make up only 5 percent of the population but account for 45 percent of those stopped.
“I can’t comment on every district because I don’t know the breakdown,” said the police commissioner, who accused some political observers of trying to simplify a complex issue.
The ACLU says there are no factors to justify the aforementioned racial disparities.
But, oddly enough, the city isn’t trying to justify these number. In fact, unless questioned, neither Mr. Kenney nor Mr. Ross seems to ever mention them.
The city’s news releases touting the decline in the number of stops are routinely void of any statistics regarding race. Ms. Catherine Roper told The Philadelphia Tribune she wants the court to mandate that the city begin to address the racial disparities.
When Mr. Kenney was campaigning for Mayor, he talked race and racism fluently and was elected, in part, because of it. He, and his administration must now address the black elephant in the room. Mitigation in the racial disparities is what was promised to voters.
Thanks for reading! Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® and I’m Drumming for Justice!™
Author’s bio: Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris is an award-winning journalist, online content producer and professional drummer currently serving as the CEO of Techbook Online, a Philadelphia-based news and event company, and the host of the Drumming for Justice podcast. Subscribe here.
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Photo Credit: C. Norris – ©2018