Stop and Frisk

Philly Council President Floats Using Stop and Frisk to Fight Gun Violence

A 2020 ACLU report showed that Black people are most likely to be stopped and frisked by the Philadelphia Police Department

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What to Know

  • Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke is proposing scaling up stop and frisk to combat gun violence.
  • In 2011, the ACLU of Pennsylvania reached a settlement with the City of Philadelphia wherein the city’s police department must collect data on stop and frisks.
  • A 2020 ACLU report showed that Black people are most likely to be stopped and frisked by the Philadelphia Police Department.

NBC10 is one of more than 20 news organizations collaboratively reporting on solutions to poverty and Philadelphia’s push towards economic mobility.

Philadelphia’s city council president is floating the idea of using the controversial practice of stop and frisk to combat gun violence.

Council president Darrell Clarke this week said there needs to be a “conversation” about “a couple controversial issues,” including stop and frisk. He also suggested the practice be called something else because “when you reference stop and frisk, it has a negative connotation.”

“At the end of the day there are a lot of citizens on the streets of Philadelphia that talk about, ‘When are we going to look at stop and frisk in a constitutionally enacted way?'” Clark said.

In 2011, the ACLU of Pennsylvania reached a settlement with the City of Philadelphia wherein the city’s police department must collect data on stop and frisks.

A 2020 ACLU report showed that Black people are most likely to be stopped and frisked by the Philadelphia Police Department.

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In a random sample chosen between October and December of 2019, 71% of pedestrians stopped in Philadelphia were Black, the report found. Eighteen percent of those Black people stopped and 39% of those frisked were ‘without reasonable suspicion,’ making them unconstitutional.

“Most alarmingly, the ACLU continues to identify racial disparities among PPD stops and frisks; African Americans comprising 41.55% of Philadelphia but accounting for 70.42% of stops and 80.21% of frisks,” Philadelphia’s Police Advisory Commission noted in its November 2020 review of the PPD’s “pedestrian investigations.”

Robert Kane is a professor and department head of criminology and justices studies at Drexel University. He is skeptical of the possibility of stop and frisk being used constitutionally.

“Can you have a stop and frisk crime control policy that is constitutional? It’s hard to know, to be honest with you, because frankly I haven’t seen one yet,” he said.

When asked by NBC10 what would constitute a fair and constitutional stop and frisk policy, Clarke said, “That’s up to everyone involved.”

Despite the doubts, Clarke is not the only council member to promote the policy. Councilman Isaiah Thomas, who led the charge in council for a driving equity bill that puts limits on why police can pull someone over, is also open to the idea.

But state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who represents a district in North Philadelphia, called it a “really, really bad idea” that will sow distrust among communities.

“We need to be building trust. I think this will degrade trust and this won’t actually solve violent crime that we’re seeing in Philadelphia,” he said.

Meanwhile, when asked about stop and frisk, Mayor Jim Kenney said he has not talked to Clarke about it, but said that he himself is “not willing to bring that back.”

The idea of relying on stop and frisk is just the latest in a series of proposals to curb gun violence in Philadelphia.

Statistics from the Philadelphia Police Department show that as of July 5, there had been at least 268 murders in the city. That figure is slightly down from the 285 murders seen at the same time in 2021, which ended up being the year with the most killings since Philadelphia first began keeping record.

Of this year's killings, at least 244 have been the result of shootings, according to a tally by the city controller's office.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

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