The changes come in response to a 2010 lawsuit, Bailey v. City of Philadelphia, in which eight Black Philadelphia residents sued the city over allegations of discrimination during stop-and-frisk encounters.
The city reached a settlement in 2011 and agreed to train officers to enter relevant information into a database after each stop and search, as Fox 29 Philadelphia first reported.
“As part of this agreement, the city’s statistical expert has reviewed the PPD’s stops each year to identify any racial disparity. In 2020, our expert found that racial disparity does exist in certain types of stops,” the Philadelphia Police Department told Fox News in a statement.
The city’s expert “believes that the root cause of the racial disparity identified may, in part, result from the manner in which the PPD enforces certain quality-of-life-type offenses.”
“As such, the Philadelphia Police Department is committed to exploring or piloting different programs that can improve the service we provide to the community and also reduce racial disparity, bias or even the appearance thereof,” the Philly PD said.
The memo obtained by Fox 29 states that Philadelphia PD officers will no longer immediately issue citations to or arrest individuals engaging in quality-of-life crimes. Instead, they will “FIRST engage only in a mere encounter with the individual and request the individual stop engaging in the prohibited behavior. The individual will NOT be detained and are free to leave.”
The process for officers will now go as follows: activate body cameras, notify police radios that they are engaging in “mere encounters,” request individuals engaging in quality-of-life crimes stop doing so, record the encounter and categorize the video as a “Mere Encounter – Quality of Life” incident, the memo says
“The purpose of the Modified Quality of Life Enforcement Pilot Program is NOT to abandon quality-of-life enforcement, but rather to provide offenders an opportunity to cease and desist such activities, prior to the issuance of any citations,” the Philly PD said. “This is a balanced approach that still allows the PPD to address community complaints while striving to reduce or eliminate the racial disparity that has been associated with this type of enforcement.”
Officers purportedly told the Fox 29 reporter they do not believe the new program will stop people from committing quality-of-life crimes, and that “at least half the department” does not have body cameras to complete the first step of the new initiative.
The pilot program will operate in the Philadelphia PD’s 14th District, according to the memo.