Data shows major uptick in number of Philly police stops of black, Latino drivers

Cherri Gregg
October 14, 2019 - 5:27 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Police data shows there's been a sharp increase in the number of vehicle stops in Philadelphia over the past year, and nearly 75 percent of those stopped are African American and Latino.

The data was first revealed in a Philadelphia Inquirer article released on Monday. Philadelphia police made more than 264,000 vehicle stops between January and August, according to the data, which is 80,000 more stops over the same time last year. 

But what's disturbing is in the first half of the year, black drivers made up 74 percent of stops and 80 percent of searches.

"You're constantly being stopped, harassed, searched and patted-down," said Dawan Williams, who was profiled by KYW Newsradio in 2016 after he was stopped a dozen times in three months.

At the time, he documented the stops on Facebook and the issue went viral.

"Those numbers haven't really declined since then. I just don't take it to social media any longer because it is what it is," he said.

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"Something must be done because it's getting tiresome," he added.

"We are very, very concerned," said David Rudovsky, a civil rights attorney who, along with the ACLU, has been involved in a lawsuit against the city for nearly a decade.

The suit's focus was pedestrian stops. While they initially collected vehicle stop data, they did not focus on it because there did not seem to be a major problem. But as pedestrians stops went down from 260,000 stops in 2011 to roughly 80,000 this year, the number of vehicle stops did the opposite.

"As the number of pedestrian stops have gone down, which is a good thing, the number of car stops are going up by the same numbers," he said. 

The disparities were brought to the attention of the City of Philadelphia by lawyers at the Defender Association. The data also shows that the "hit rate" — the rate to which officers found drugs, guns or other criminal paraphernalia — was higher among white drivers.

"We will look into this," said Rudovsky, noting that they will now shift the focus of the litigation from pedestrian stops to car/vehicle stops.

Managing Director Brian Abernathy says the Kenney administration has made strides but needs to do better.

"We are trying to address this, just like we addressed pedestrian stops," Abernathy said. 

Abernathy says the city will use a portion of the $4 million MacArthur grant received last year to specifically address the issue of disparities.