Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sensitivity, And Killings, Up in Philadelphia

A controversial, though (as far as can be determined by a shaky poll) popular, anti-crime policy has in Philadelphia will be adjusted as a result of an out-of-court settlement in a suit filed by the ACLU. The Philadelphia Tribune- on June 21- reports

A court-appointed monitor will oversee city police officers' use of "stop and frisk" searches, a high-profile part of the mayor's efforts to combat violent crime, according to a settlement agreement announced Tuesday.

Authorities also will take additional steps to make sure the stops are made only when there is reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. The city also agreed to pay a total of $115,000 to seven of the plaintiffs, plus legal costs.

The settlement stems from a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in November alleging that the searches were violating the rights of blacks and Latinos who had done nothing wrong. The ACLU sued on behalf of eight men — including a state lawmaker — it says were subjected to illegal searches since the city started using "stop and frisk," a controversial element of Mayor Michael Nutter's 2007 election campaign.

As part of the agreement, the city denies wrongdoing and denies claims made by the plaintiffs...

The use of "stop and frisk" searches has been a focal point of Nutter's campaign to slow violent crime, which is down since he took office in 2008. Both Nutter and police Commissioner Charles Ramsey are black.

An officer making a pedestrian stop under "stop and frisk" must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, according to David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who is an expert on street stops.

In a typical stop, an officer will order the person to put their hands on a wall and then ask questions before beginning a search for weapons. If the officer is going to frisk, Harris said, he or she must suspect that the person is armed or that the crime they are suspected of requires a weapon.

(Sarcasm Alert) Announcement of the change of policy came just in time. The Philadelphia Inquirer- on Monday, June 2- reports

It was a weekend of violence and mayhem - brutal even by Philadelphia standards. From Friday through Sunday, 32 people were wounded, six fatally, in about 20 shootings across the city, police said, and a seventh person died in a stabbing.

Police had not yet determined if the 33 victims represented the worst three-day span of violence in the department's recent history. But Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the onslaught stood out as one of the worst in his 31/2-year Philadelphia tenure.

"I don't know if we've ever had any more over a three-day period," he said of the shootings during a news conference Monday at Police Headquarters. "This certainly ranks right at the top, if not the top. It shows just how violent it can become on the streets of our city."

"We are lucky we did not have more homicides," Ramsey said, referring to two shootings in which 10 people were injured and in which police recovered more than 20 shell casings.

It was a particularly bad weekend in Philadelphia, but one which highlighted the activity which provided the catalyst for the "stop and frisk" policy initiated by the mayor. The Police Commissioner knows "it can get violent on the streets of our city" and frequently does, aided by the habit of firearms finding themselves in the possession of habitual felons. But Philadelphia generally, and the neighborhoods most affected by the policy, are probably not the ones most ACLU attorneys choose to live in. Good thing, too, given the utter disregard the organization has for the fear the residents of such neighborhoods endure daily.

Opponents of gun control frequently gloat about the high crime rate in big cities such as Philadelphia to justify its mindless mantra, "guns don't kill people, people kill people." In this instance, the ACLU, with a misguided sense of civil libertarianism, has given them solace and support.

Somewhere the NRA is laughing hysterically.


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