The Philadelphia Black Lives Matter chapter had a fitting gift for some allegedly handsy cops.
On Tuesday, a few activists delivered two pairs of men’s underwear to the Philadelphia Police Department to protest the “stop-and-fondle” practices local law enforcement has allegedly been using, according to NBC 10.
In a Facebook Live video, activist Asa Khalif condemned the stop-and-frisk tactics that the city’s police officers use to dig in people’s pants to search their underwear. He said it was sexual assault. In a second video, the activists confront officers outside of their headquarters.
“It is illegal to stop and frisk. It is illegal to go into someone’s underwear and touch their penis, touch their buttocks,” he said in the video below. “You think it’s common practice and it’s legal, but it’s not.”
A week prior to the protests, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News exposed the “stop-and-fondle” practices police allegedly use, mostly on black men. The outlet reported that the searches go against police policy and state law, and that the department doesn’t keep a record of how often they occur.
An American Civil Liberties Union report shows that though the searches are unlawful, cops in Philadelphia continue to stop and frisk pedestrians based on race. In the last half of 2016, 77 percent of people stopped and frisked were black or Latinx, a group that only makes up about half of the city’s population. Though the ACLU says that the numbers have improved, it also notes that there is work to be done to reach equality.
“This report shows a continuing pattern of significant racial disparities in stops and frisks in Philadelphia that are not explained by non-racial factors such as crime rates or police deployment,” said attorney David Rudovsky, who filed the report on behalf of plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia. “Racial justice must be more than a goal. It is the hallmark of fair policing and the requirement of the consent decree.”
The ACLU has been monitoring stop-and-frisk activity since the parties reached a settlement in the aforementioned court case in 2011. A consent decree with civil rights lawyers requires the Philadelphia Police Department to work toward eliminating unlawful stops.
Invasive searches are only legal when conducted in a police or medical building after the person has been arrested, NBC 10 reported. Cops are required to have the highest-ranking supervisor’s approval in writing and reasonable suspicion that the suspect is hiding contraband to conduct the search.
But the law hasn’t prevented “stop-and-fondle” searches from happening.
Monte Singleton, a black man, told the Daily News that he had just dropped off his 6-year-old daughter at her grandmother’s house when police pulled him over for his tinted back window. A cop told him to exit his car and began searching his clothes and underwear without explanation. An officer then searched his car. Singleton filed a complaint afterward.
“They’re out here, basically, going around sexually harassing people. They’re doing what they want,” he said. “Certain officers try to be sneaky about it, but then you got some officers who just don’t care … who sees them doing it.”
Department spokesperson Capt. Sekou Kinebrew told the local outlet that he was unaware of cops using “stop-and-fondle” tactics.
“If that happened and they were violated in any sort of way, they should make a complaint,” he said. “It certainly will be diligently investigated.”
Khalif said he and other local activists are funding trauma counseling for those who have endured such searches, according to NBC 10. He also said that he plans to “disrupt” Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richard Ross until the department changes its policies.
“This is why we continue to fight in the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said in the video. “We do not accept the s**t that is happening in our communities. We’re not going to tolerate racist ass police officers attacking black and brown people.”
H/T The Root