The Philadelphia Police Department will change the way it monitors, reviews and audits pedestrian arrests after settling a federal lawsuit filed in November over the department's controversial "stop and frisk" policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Mayor Nutter today will announce the settlement in the Bailey Class Action Lawsuit, which argued that minorities were targeted based on race and that stops were conducted often without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
Nutter will sign two executive orders today intended to enhance "the public's trust" of the Police Department.
Officials were mum yesterday regarding the details of the settlement. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and the Nutter administration declined to comment until today's announcement.
The eight plaintiffs in the case, represented by the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, include state Rep. Jewell Williams, a commercial real-estate lawyer, a carpenter, a University of Pennsylvania ethnographer and other city residents - all black and Latino men.
The suit says that pedestrian stops increased dramatically from 2005 to 2009 - from 102,319 to 253,333 - and that 72 percent of those stopped in 2009 were black. Only 8.4 percent of the stops led to an arrest.
The suit claims that the Police Department failed to adequately audit the stops to ensure that cops complied with policy and failed to take corrective action against officers who had false or impermissible justifications for stops.
"Police officers have a tough job, but they don't need to make it worse by adding on extra things," said Williams, a former Temple University police officer who won May's Democratic primary for sheriff. "The public is your friend."
Since taking office in 2008, Nutter has supported "stop, question and frisk" policing as a crime-fighting tool that could help diminish the number of guns on the street. Nutter has pointed to drops in violent crime while adding that he would not tolerate any civil-rights violations.
Ramsey has said that officers receive extensive training on how to properly conduct a stop.
"Can we expect that every [stop and frisk] will be perfect? There has to be reasonable room for error," said Jerry Ratcliffe, a criminal-justice professor at Temple. He said he hopes the settlement clarifies what is reasonable.
"We need to deal with the cultural biases," said Chad Dion Lassiter, president of Black Men at Penn School of Social Work Inc. at the University of Pennsylvania. "The citizens of Philadelphia have the right to be safe, and black and Latino males have the right not to be stereotyped, pigeonholed and harassed by police. Not all of them are criminals."