Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Philadelphia's 'Stop-and-Frisk' Challenged

In Philadelphia, where police embraced an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy nearly three years ago in response to rising gun violence, civil rights lawyers filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that Philadelphia police have been targeting people based solely on race, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The tactic, in which officers can stop and frisk pedestrians as long as there is "reasonable suspicion" of illegal activity, was designed to drive down the number of illegal guns on the street.

Attorney David Rudovsky, one of the lawyers who filed the suit, acknowledges that racial profiling can't be proved "solely by the numbers."

"The key question is: If you control for factors like police deployment and crime rates, would that explain the disparity?" Rudovsky told the Inquirer.

Rudovsky said a better benchmark would be to look at the "hit rate" - how often the stops result in arrest or the discovery of a weapon or other contraband.

The lawsuit says just 8 percent of the stops in 2009 resulted in arrests, often for "criminal conduct that was entirely independent from the supposed reason for the stop." Beyond the overall number of stops by race in 2009 and the arrest percentage, Rudovsky and his co-counsel lack data to search for patterns and figure out precisely who gets frisked and why, according to the Inquirer.

To read more: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/home_top_stories/20101129_Federal_lawsuit_alleges_stop-and-frisk_unfairly_targets_minorities.html#ixzz16lrVeGts

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