John McNesby

Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby said Thursday his union supports mayoral candidate Jim Kenney’s plans to end stop-and-frisk if elected. — AP photo

Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby said Thursday his union supports mayoral candidate Jim Kenney’s plans to end stop and frisk.

During an interview with WURD radio, McNesby said the continuing controversy over the stop-and-frisk is not necessary. The Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Kenney’s candidacy early in the campaign.

“Everybody is making a big deal about stop-and-frisk,” McNesby said. “You’re allowed to stop-and-frisk somebody under a Supreme Court ruling. If there’s probable cause you stop them, you search them, and if you don’t find anything you let them go. Police are allowed to do that and there won’t be much deviation no matter what it’s called.

“People chose to make it an issue during the campaign — they chose to do that but it’s not anything new. It’s nothing that’s been reinvented. Kenney has fought time and again to provide Philadelphia police officers with the resources they need not only to keep our city safe, but also to create real community policing programs.”

Kenney scored an overwhelming victory in a crowded field of candidates this week to win the Democratic nomination for mayor. Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 8 to 1 in the city. Kenney is the presumptive favorite to become the next mayor of Philadelphia.

During the primary season, he emphatically stated he planned to end stop-and-frisk.

“If you have a program that divides the community from the police and it doesn’t result in anything positive going forward, it should be stopped,” Kenney said. “As mayor, I will work with police leadership and the rank-and-file to end practices like stop-and-frisk that drive a wedge between citizens and police. We must create a culture where Philadelphians respect their officers and feel that every officer also respects their rights.”

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he thinks there’s a great deal of confusion about stop-and-frisk. He would like to know if Kenney wants to end it altogether or is his problem with officers acting outside the constitutionally mandated guidelines. Ramsey said he has a problem with officers who cross that line also.

“I’m not sure what he [Kenney] means when he says ending stop-and-frisk, and I think that needs to be clearer,” Ramsey said. “Stop-and-frisk has to be under constitutionally mandated guidelines — meaning you have to have probable cause. Our officers train for that. If you suspect someone has a weapon or narcotics or is committing an illegal act then we can stop them and search them and we do. Stop and frisk should only happen under the guidelines and I agree that it shouldn’t happen otherwise and that’s not how we train.”

In Philadelphia, the Police Department has also come under scrutiny for its perceived uneven use of the tactic. The law firm of Kairys Rudovsky Messing and Feinberg along with the Philadelphia ACLU alleges almost half of all pedestrian stops were conducted without probable cause. In February 2015, the firm released its fifth monitoring report on stop-and-frisk, alleging that after four years, the city “has failed to adequately remedy the serious flaws that existed and continue to exist in the Philadelphia Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices.”

“This report shows that while the police department has made some improvements in its stop-and-frisk practices, there are still far too many persons — tens of thousands each year — who are stopped and frisked without legal justification,” said civil rights attorney David Rudovsky.” In our view, the city must move very decisively to ensure that stops are made only where there is reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. Failing such action, we will seek court intervention to secure full compliance with the consent decree.”

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and Kairys, Rudovsky began an on-going monitoring process of stop-and-frisk policy. A lawsuit filed in 2010 alleging officers had a pattern and practice of stopping and frisking pedestrians without reasonable suspicion the person was involved in criminal activity and disproportionately stopping African Americans. Rudovsky said African-American and Latino males bear the brunt of stop-and-frisk contested incidents, 76 percent of the stops and 85 percent of the frisks. Tens of thousands of Philadelphians continue to be stopped without reasonable suspicion, the attorney said.

According to the latest report, 37 percent of the over 200,000 pedestrian stops in 2014 were made without reasonable suspicion, a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Of the frisks, only 47 percent were made based on reasonable suspicion. Although Philadelphia’s population is 42.26 percent white, 43.22 percent Black and 8.5 percent Hispanic, 80.23 percent of stops were of minorities. The disparity was even greater for frisks, with minority residents accounting for 89.15 percent of frisks. Arrests occurred in 7.5 percent of all stops, the report showed.

From the time stop-and-frisk was instituted by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2008, it was mired in controversy. The main concern among community leaders was officers would be stopping individuals based on racial profiling. Stop-and-frisk is a common tactic used by police departments when officers have probable cause to halt suspicious pedestrians or motorists. But the common tactic has been coming under more and more scrutiny over the last few years, not only in Philadelphia but also in New York where in 2013 a federal judge ruled the New York Police Department violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of Black and Hispanic males.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said in an opinion concerning the case Floyd v. New York City, that NYPD’s application of the tactic has been racially discriminatory and officials within city government turned a blind eye to the violations.

“The city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” Scheindlin wrote in the 198-page opinion. “In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting ‘the right people’ is racially discriminatory. The Fourth Amendment protects all individuals against unreasonable searches and seizure. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees to every person the equal protection of the laws. It prohibits intentional discrimination based on race.

Her ruling stated that in New York, 52 percent of all stops were followed by a search for a weapon that was found in 1.5 percent of the frisks. In 98.5 percent of the stops, no weapon was found. In 4.4 million stops, 52 percent of the people stopped were Black, 31 percent were Hispanic and 10 percent were white.

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