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Letters: City responds to stop/frisk editorial

REGARDING the Dec. 5 editorial that touched on the stop-and-frisk policy in Philadelphia, there were several points that require clarification.

REGARDING the Dec. 5 editorial that touched on the stop-and-frisk policy in Philadelphia, there were several points that require clarification.

First, stop-and-frisk policies, like the one used in Philadelphia, were upheld in 1968 by the U.S. Supreme Court, in Terry v. Ohio. Not only was the practice ruled constitutional, but the provisions of Terry have been further expanded in subsequent years.

Second, the editorial mentions the 2011 case that the ACLU brought against the city, Bailey v. City of Philadelphia. This case involved eight black and Latino men seeking class certification and alleging that stop-and-frisk policy violated the 14th Amendment by basing stops, searches and seizures on race and/or national origin.

The editorial fails to mention that while the City believed that its practices were constitutional, it did not challenge the claims made in the suit. Rather, the city worked with the plaintiffs and the ACLU to address plaintiffs' concerns.

As such, the city was able to consider the opinions and input from those affected by the policy. Working with the plaintiffs' attorneys and the federal court, the Philadelphia Police Department implemented additional protections against unwarranted searches. Also, Mayor Nutter issued an executive order concerning stop-and-frisk practices and mandated the collection and review of the data.

The editorial mentions that 76 percent of those stopped were minorities, as were 85 percent of those frisked in 2012. In the wake of Bailey, the city prepared an analysis of pedestrian stop data, which suggests that the over-representation of minorities stopped by police relates to the fact that many minorities live in neighborhoods that have a disproportionate amount of crime.

Further, the analysis suggests that the number of stops and searches documented in police reports relates to areas of increased violent crimes (murder, robbery and related offenses) and the increase of police presence in those areas.

The editorial contended that, regarding an upcoming report on stop-and-frisk data, "we doubt that it will show much difference from last year's," though it cites no basis for such a claim. The anticipated ACLU report will include its audit of PPD's policies, as it now monitors relevant data related to stops-and-frisks, measuring compliance with constitutional standards.

Two key points concerning the city's transparency regarding its use of stop-and-frisk: The Department of Justice has access to the city's data and analyzes it for constitutional and civil-rights issues, as well.

And the police department asked the Justice Department to conduct a comprehensive review of the police department's use of police force and training. That report will be released soon, but ahead of that, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has instituted various reforms.

The fact that very few guns have been seized, according to our stop-and-frisk data, should be viewed through the prism of the gun-toting crowd adapting to a police department focused on violent crime in the city's neighborhood hot spots.

The police department is working hard to strengthen its community policing strategies, which recognize that police officers are public servants who risk their lives daily to protect Philadelphians. In turn, Philadelphians, whose taxes pay police salaries, deserve respect in every encounter between officers and them. Indeed, the department's commitment to such policing is surely one reason that President Obama selected Commissioner Ramsey to serve as chair of his new Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Finally, the criticism in this editorial is misplaced in the context of the tragic deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The Daily News contends that stop-and-frisk in Philadelphia is "sanctioning of the wholesale suspicion of black males." This is false and irresponsible at a time when tensions are high enough without journalistic misdirection.