The stop-and-frisk data for 2016 is in, and there’s good and bad news to share with Philadelphians. Financial reparations for the 35,000 individuals who made up the 2010 class-action lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia are a possibility, as the threat of sanctions from a federal judge hasn’t been pulled, despite moderate improvement. The numbers from 2016 don’t show success, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Mr. Richard Ross told me this morning in an exclusive interview with Techbook Online, but they do, indeed, show progress.
The Philadelphia Police department made 78,458 fewer pedestrian stops lacking reasonable suspicion in 2016 than in 2015, which translates into a 72 percent decrease, the city’s report says.
Commissioner Ross said some of the protocols put in place in 2016, like the progressive discipline and the routine monitoring of the numbers in Comstat, “have helped to reduce pedestrian investigations.”
When I asked whether the 2016 numbers were what he had in mind when he, in 2015, declared on the campaign trail his intent on mitigating bad stops, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he only envisioned progress, but asserted that his goal is that no young black male going to school, or going to work, will be stopped because of the color of his skin.
The Mayor of Philadelphia’s goal of ending racist policing, while admirable, remains elusive, and that’s the bad news. Both Commissioner Ross, and Mr. David Rudovsky, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, agreed that the racial disparities have remained consistent.
“The needle has not moved in five years,” Mr. Rudovsky, who noted that African-Americans make up roughly 80 percent of both stops and frisk, told me.
Commissioner Ross said the racial disparities are mostly due to the fact that officers are where the crime is. Mr. Rudovsky said even when you take into account the crime rate in Black neighborhoods, there’s still unexplained racial disparities.
Last year, even with the improvement, said Mr. Rudovsky, 35,000 people were stopped without reasonable suspicion, and most of them were African-Americans. Further, Mr. Rudovsky said out of every 100 stops, only 1 or 2 guns are found, an assertion that went unchallenged by the police commissioner.
“Progress has been made, but we started with a low point,” said Mr. Rudovsky, who added that over the last five years, half of all stops were done without reasonable suspicion, and now it’s only a quarter of them.
Mr. Rudovsky lays the majority of blame at the feet of the “prior administration.” The Mayor and Police Commissioner – Mr. Michael A. Nutter and Mr. Charles Ramsey – knew they had a problem, said Mr. Rudovsky, but it wasn’t a high priority for them; “they didn’t take it seriously.”
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Photo courtesy of the author.