Civil rights attorneys sued the Philadelphia police in federal court yesterday, charging that they illegally stop pedestrians based on race and question them with little or no justification, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The lawsuit accuses the department of crossing a line with its aggressive “stop-and-frisk” policy, started in 2008 after Mayor Michael Nutter declared a “crime emergency.” It asks the court for remedies to prevent race-based pedestrian stops and other constitutional violations.
In 2009, police stopped 253,333 pedestrians, 72 percent of whom were African American, the suit said. Only 8 percent of the stops led to an arrest, often for “criminal conduct that was entirely independent from the supposed reason for the stop,” the suit charged. Implicitly, the message is, make as many stops as possible, and hopefully you’ll find something,” said David Rudovsky, one of the lawyers suing the city and the Police Department. The suit was filed by Rudovsky’s firm and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. Among the eight named plaintiffs is Mahari Bailey, a Georgetown Law graduate who has been stopped four times since 2008 in West Philadelphia “without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.” Nutter and Police Commissioner, Charles Ramsey embraced the stop-and-frisk approach in 2008 in response to a rising tide of gun violence and crime. Violent crime has dropped significantly since.