An analysis by Lance Hannon, a professor of sociology and criminology at Villanova University, reveals a pattern of racial bias when it comes to the use of “stop-and-frisk.” Hannon found that predominantly African-American neighborhoods have higher rates of frisking, regardless of the crime level in the area. The Villanova study used public data from the Philadelphia Police Department that detailed over 45,000 frisks made in more than 350,000 pedestrian stops during 2014-2015.
While a spokesman for the city stated that the matter of racial bias is being addressed with training for officers and disciplinary measures, the city has faced significant litigation related to this issue in the past. In fact, the stop-and-frisk data has been made available to the public with the aim of furthering transparency and investigation by external agencies. Philadelphia’s rates of stop-and-frisk have decreased since last spring, and 72 percent fewer stops were identified as problematic.
The crime rate did not determine which areas had high levels of stop-and-frisk. Rather, all predominantly African-American neighborhoods had the same high level of frisking, even those with low crime rates. According to Hannon, both police officers and non-police officers tend to associate race with danger. As a result, all areas with the same racial predominance are treated the same way. In the case of stop-and-frisk as a police tactic, African-American areas had 70 percent more frisks than other demographic neighborhoods, but the frisks yielded less contraband.
The new study highlights the existence of “structural” racism neighborhoods affecting minorities. In an interview, Hannon states more stopping and frisking in neighborhoods of color leads residents to distrust law enforcement. Ironically, the loss of legitimacy and community trust results in an increase in the use of stop-and-frisk. The ever-widening spiral hurts everyone involved.
If you believe that your civil rights have been violated, consult with an experienced Philadelphia civil rights lawyer from Williams Cedar who can help you determine your legal options. Call us at 215-557-0099 today to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey.