Election 2020

Ballot question: Should Philly constitutionally abolish ‘stop and frisk’ — and would it make a difference?

The charter amendment is largely symbolic.

Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn

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The Philadelphia Police Department has long been called out by groups like the ACLU of Pennsylvania for racial disparities in the agency’s “stop and frisk” practice. Black Philadelphians make up about 44% of the city population but comprise a full 71% of all stops and 82% of all frisks, according to the civil rights group.


¿Hable español? Esta guía ha sido traducida por Kensington Voice

Ending the practice has been a campaign pledge for many progressive elected officials, including Mayor Jim Kenney, who many feel went back on his promise.

In November, voters will be able to decide whether the city’s rule book will explicitly outline that police should not stop people based on race, or other identifying traits.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to call on the Police Department to eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent, meaning an officer must have reasonable suspicion that a person is engaged in criminal activity in order to stop that person, and, therefore, an officer cannot stop someone unlawfully because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or expression, or other protected characteristic?

What it means

In 2010, the ACLU sued the city on behalf of eight African American and Latino men that held Philly cops illegally stopped, frisked, searched and detained based on their race or ethnicity.

The ACLU reached a settlement with the city in 2011 requiring the PPD to track the demographics of police stops and train officers.

Philadelphia voters will be asked whether they want to codify in the city’s Home Rule Charter that police cannot stop and frisk without “reasonable suspicion” that the person is committing a crime, further emphasizing cops shouldn’t make stops based on a number of protected characteristics including race and religious affiliation.

It’s already illegal to stop and frisk people without reasonable suspicion of a crime, and it’s also already part of Philadelphia Police Department policy. This ballot question is just asking voters whether they want the city’s rule book to urge police officers to end illegal stop and frisk.

The gesture is largely symbolic. Despite court decisions that’ve explicitly outlawed police stops based on race, ethnicity or any other protected trait, vast racial disparity persists with little to no oversight or consequence.

Who’s for and against it?



  • Commissioner Danielle Outlaw was hesitant to offer support during a City Council hearing, arguing that stops are a useful metrics for finding firearms.



To chat with a live person about any question you have regarding voting, text EQUALINFO to 73224.

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