Dec 17, 2021 - News

Philly may expand pilot program limiting stop-and-frisk policing

Illustration of a police badge, with yellow and black stripes overlaid on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Mayor Jim Kenney's administration is in talks to potentially expand an ongoing police pilot program that limits the tactic of "stop and frisk" for minor offenses.

Why it matters: Nearly half of all police pedestrian stops in Philadelphia are for low-level offenses, according to the ACLU's review of city data.

Driving the news: David Rudovsky, a civil rights attorney who's involved in evaluating the project, told Axios this week he is in discussions with the city to place the program in four additional police districts.

State of play: The pilot program is tied to a federal consent decree that came from a civil rights lawsuit Rudovsky's firm filed roughly a decade ago.

  • It launched in August in the 14th Police District in North Philadelphia, and it is still running despite initial plans to end the program this October.

How it works: Officers participating in the program do not identify, question or detain people for about a dozen minor offenses, such as panhandling, littering and carrying open liquor containers.

  • Officers, who are required to record their encounters, will instead ask individuals to stop the prohibited behavior and move along.
  • Police will only formally stop an individual if the person refuses to comply.

By the numbers: During the program's first three months, officers recorded 378 encounters in which no further intervention was needed, said Kenney administration spokesperson Kevin Lessard.

  • Officers recorded 111 unrelated stops during that time.

What they're saying: Rudovsky said the data appeared to show that individuals complied with requests from officers when encountered.

  • It also sheds light on police encounters that officers didn't previously document, Rudovsky said.
  • "Now, every move-on order is recorded so we have what the police are doing," he said.

Yes, but: Lessard signaled the city wants to see more data before expanding the program.

  • A full review of its impact on crime, police activity and the community is expected to be completed by early 2022.
  • "At the conclusion of this analysis, the city will be in a better position to speak to any possible changes in the pilot program, including expansion," Lessard said.

What's next: Rudovsky said if the city and plaintiffs in the case can't come to an agreement over the program, they will head back to federal court.


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