Growing Calls for Police Reform in Philadelphia and Chicago

By Carla Murphy Mar 24, 2015

Two reports this week are kindling local calls for police accountability in Chicago and Philadelphia. The Chicago report focuses on stop-and-frisk and finds that residents were "stopped more than four times as often as New Yorkers at the height of New York City’s [stop-and-frisk] practice" and that black Chicago communities bear the brunt of these encounters. Calling them overused and unlawful, the ACLU report finds that last summer more than 250,000 stops did not lead to arrest.

In Philadelphia meanwhile, a federal team out of the Department of Justice’s COPs office has just released an advisory report on the police department’s use of deadly force. Between 2007 and 2013, officers opened fire nearly 400 times, shooting 59 unarmed people. Because there is no reliable national data on police shootings, however, it’s difficult to say whether those numbers are high or low. The report does conclude that officers, particularly those assigned to patrol, are poorly trained. About 80 percent of those shot were black; their average age was 20. Among officers involved in shootings–the vast majority of whom are men–59 percent were white and 34 percent, African-American.

Recommendations accompany both research reports, which can be read here and here. Police departments in both cities are under heavy scrutiny. In Chicago, which is in the middle of a mayoral race, a senior police commander recently resigned following a Guardian investigation into allegations of detention and abuse at the Homan Square warehouse.

In Philadelphia, a police officer was recently cleared in the shooting death of Brandon Tate-Brown, 26, and separately, an officer was shot and killed earlier this month during a robbery at a video game store. Police commissioner Charles Ramsey, a member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, reportedly requested the federal review of police shootings in his department.