Police in Northwest Philly launch alternative program to stop and frisk
The program hopes to eliminate all stop-and-frisk interactions between police and residents for good.
On Wednesday, July 28, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) announced that Philadelphia Police in the city’s 14th District will launch a pilot program on Aug. 1 that will test an alternative approach to stop and frisk.
The program will last three months.
Areas involved in the new pilot program include Chestnut Hill, Germantown, and Mount Airy neighborhoods.
Instead of the stop-and-frisk method, officers will ask parties involved in petty crimes to stop what they are doing and leave the premises.
If the person does not comply, then the police officer will perform a stop and frisk.
Police also announced they will assign “accountability officers” to monitor stops and frisks and racial disparities in five police districts. They will provide annual training and random audits of body-worn camera footage to compare information documented by officers.
“This program will show that it is possible to protect a community without escalating small police contacts. We look forward to seeing it spread throughout the city,” Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a press release.
Petty offenses covered by the new program include open alcohol bottles, public smoking of marijuana, prostitution, disorderly conduct, and littering in parks or other public places.
Many studies have shown that the stop-and-frisk method showed heavy racial disparities and affected mainly African-Americans and Latinos.
On Nov. 4, 2010, the ACLU and the law firm, Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg, and Lin, sued the city of Philadelphia for showing racial bias by using the stop-and-frisk method. In June 2011, the city of Philadelphia and the ACLU announced that they had reached a settlement agreement.
The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) were ordered to collect random data on stop and frisks.
Although data shows police stopping has decreased, the new program is hoping to completely eliminate contact of the sort between residents and police.
In 2017, analysis showed that around 20,000 people were stopped in 2017 with no justifiable reason, according to the ACLU.
The data showed that in the third and fourth quarters of 2019, around 4,998 stop and frisks were conducted, and 2,809 of residents involved in them were African-American.
“In the decade since the settlement of this lawsuit, the overall number of stops and frisks by Philadelphia police has dropped, but the racial disparities in these encounters persist,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
The program was created so that racial bias from the PPD will come to an end.
“This pilot program will de-escalate police encounters, particularly with Black men, that far too often turn dangerous or deadly. We need to reimagine how police interact with our communities, and we hope this is a meaningful step in that direction,” said Shuford.
At the end of the pilot program, a judge will determine whether or not to expand this method to other parts of the city.