Philadelphia, where on average 200,000 people a year are stopped and sometimes frisked by police officers, is grappling with the challenges of reigning in a crime fighting program that not only eroded trust of law enforcement in some communities but also, as a result of a class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU PA in 2010, put the City at risk of having a judge issue sanctions if meaningful reforms don’t soon materialize.
The rise in stops ensued when former Mayor Michael A. Nutter in 2008 proclaimed a crime emergency in Philadelphia. At the behest of Mr. Nutter, then Police Commissioner Mr. Charles Ramsey authored a crime fighting strategy wherein the implementation of citywide aggressive though lawful stop-and-frisk tactics was mandated. The stops on average were anything but lawful yet the expectation of aggression was exceeded.
Eight years later, Philadelphia, a symbol of malfeasance on this subject – Newsweek months ago published a story under the headline: America Has a Stop-and-Frisk Problem. Just Look at Philadelphia – is now, due to both the ACLU’s lawsuit and the current Mayor’s campaign promise to halt the program, under intense pressure to, in some way, curtail the controversial practice. But how the City is approaching this reform varies depending on if you talk to the Mayor, Mr. Jim Kenney, or the Philadelphia Police Department, led by Mr. Richard Ross.
Mr. Kenney, who as a Mayoral candidate railed against stop-and-frisk, today on 900am-WURD said, during his segment ‘Ask the Mayor,’ that the City is working everyday to bring the numbers down and ensure that pedestrian stops, which is now the term used by officials to describe the police-citizen encounter – some at the police department have said the term stop-and-frisk was never used internally but one look at the 2008 crime fighting strategy proves that’s not true – are done according to the Constitution.
But Lt. John Stanford at the PPD made it clear to me months ago that their focus is on quality not quantity. In other words, the PPD’s priority at the moment isn’t to lower the number but rather ensure that all pedestrian stops are done by the book – this stated focus could be interpreted that in the past the focus was elsewhere – and reviewed often by Captains at precincts and by top brass during CompStat meetings.
It’s been rumored that the Mayor and the Police Commissioner on this issue haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye; their varying narratives on stop-and-frisk reforms add a tinge of validity to that claim.
The city later this year has to prove progress on stop-and-frisk reforms. And though a progressive discipline has been put in place – Mayor Nutter was quite reckless during his administration by encouraging the use of the practice without erecting measures to punish officers who willfully detain citizens in the absence of reasonable suspicion – ambiguity still abounds as to whether or not quantity and quality will be addressed simultaneously or if one will be favored over the other.
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.