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Constitutional Law

After Settling Plaintiff Lawyer’s Civil Rights Suit, Phila. Tries to Make Stop-and-Frisks Courteous

Posted Jul 11, 2012 4:45 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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With violent crimes on the increase this year in Philadelphia and other major cities, the so-called stop-and-frisk is seen by many as a standard tool to use to crack down on possible perpetrators and illegal guns they may have in their possession.

However, police in Philadelphia are trying to question individuals more courteously, in the aftermath of a successful civil rights class action brought by attorney Mahari Bailey, as lead plaintiff, reports the New York Times (reg. req.).

As part of a settlement in the 2010 case, the Philadelphia Police Department created an electronic database to help determine that the stops are in compliance with a new protocol.

An incident Bailey personally experienced helps explain why more safeguards were needed, according to the article. The Georgetown University law graduate says he and some friends were standing outside a West Philadelphia home when a car screeched to a halt and two men jumped out with their guns drawn.

The group initially thought they were the targets of an armed robbery, Bailey says, but it was plainclothes police officers in an unmarked vehicle who soon had him handcuffed and braced against a police car. When he said he was a lawyer and asked why he was stopped, police gave no explanation but threatened to tell his employer he was "hanging with drug dealers."

An opinion piece posted on The Crime Report provides further background information on crime statistics and the line of cases, beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Terry v. Ohio ruling in 1968, that authorize the stop-and-frisk procedure.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Supreme Court Allows Frisk of Passenger Believed to be Carrying Gun"

ABAJournal.com: "1,000s of NYC Stop-&-Frisks Unjustified, Law Prof Finds; City Argues He Was Paid $375/Hour to Say So"

Associated Press: "SF mayor considering police stop-and-frisk policy"

San Francisco Chronicle: "Stop-and-frisk policy might cut violence, Ed Lee says"

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