Stop and Frisk: History of Racial Profiling in Philadelphia

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

From 2007 to 2021, there were 5,478 homicides in Philadelphia. In our city, one person died every day for 14 years. Although our city is diverse and 40% black, black neighbors bore the brunt of these homicides. As a result, the city council put together a multi-agency task force to examine the problem, producing a report examining the city's homicide rate and gun violence. The report refers to this as a “racial justice crisis,” pointing out that 80% of the homicide victims are black men between the ages of 18 and 35.

Along with an increase in violence typically comes an increase in aggressive policing, particularly in neighborhoods most affected by the crisis. But in Philadelphia, more intense policing increased the rate of police stops that involved the controversial “stop and frisk” policing technique. A December 2022 story from WHYY examines the history of stop-and-frisk policies in Philadelphia and the racial profiling involved.

The Birth of Stop & Frisk

A “stop and frisk” is a policing technique where officers briefly stop a suspect for a pat down of their outer clothing if they have reasonable suspicion that the individual is about to or has committed a crime. The technique, also called a Terry stop, came from the Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio. See 392 U.S. 1 (1968). In Terry, the court held that a stop and frisk must comply with the Fourth Amendment, meaning it must be reasonable. A Terry stop is only reasonable if a “reasonably prudent officer is warranted in the circumstances of a given case in believing that his safety or that of others is endangered, he may make a reasonable search for weapons of the person believed by him to be armed and dangerous.”

Does Stop & Frisk Work?

While the “stop and frisk” technique may prevent crimes from happening or lead to arresting some people engaged in illegal activities, whether these stops keep communities safer is the subject of much debate. But we know that Terry stops are fraught with racial bias in their implementation. According to a 2020 ACLU report, black individuals made up 71% of stops in Philadelphia in the second half of 2019, even though only 40% of the population in Philly is black. The ACLU estimated that about 30% of stop and frisks were happening without reasonable suspicion.

In our next post, we'll discuss the harm that “stop and frisk” can cause in black communities and alternatives to keep our communities safe.

Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

When you're facing criminal charges in Philadelphia, you shouldn't try navigating the criminal justice system alone. You need a skilled criminal defense attorney who will vigorously protect your rights. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the legal team at the Lento Law Firm have defended hundreds of Pennsylvanians, and they can help you too. Call them at 888-535-3686 and schedule your consultation.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.