Officers at the Philadelphia Police Department got an unexpected delivery earlier this week.
Two members of the Pennsylvania chapter of Black Lives Matter showed up at the precinct on Tuesday and handed police officers pairs of men’s underwear to protest a little known, yet unlawful, practice dubbed “stop and fondle”.
According a recent expose in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, for years black and brown men in Philly have had their pants lowered, patted down and rifled through during t pedestrian stops.
Yet, these searches, when conducted in public, are strictly prohibited by Police Department policy and state laws.
Invasive searches are only lawful if police officers have a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is hiding drugs or contraband and must be conducted in a police or medical building after the person has been arrested, NBC 10 reported. In addition, cops must seek approval from their superintendent.
Outraged by last week’s report of the illegal, and according to several courts, racially-driven searches, Philadelphia activist Asa Khalif delivered a loud and clear message outside the police precinct in Center City:
“It is illegal to stop and frisk. It is illegal to go into someone’s underwear and touch their penis. Touch their buttocks. You think it’s common practice and it’s legal, but it’s not,” he yelled in a megaphone, broadcasting the direct action on Facebook Live.
Questioned by the Daily News about lower ranking officers using these tactics, Capt. Sekou Kinebrew they were unknown to him and encouraged victims to file a complaint.
Not surprising for Khalif, who told NBC10 strip searches are so common, many people including higher ranking cops think they are legal.
It’s “standard police culture in black and brown neighborhoods,” he said, likening the practice to sexual assault.
“It’s humiliating. Dehumanizing,” he said. “I understand the feeling of hopelessness. It brings up all types of issues with black youth especially.”
One of the men interviewed by the Daily News told him that being strip searched by police for no apparent reason and without his consent, while he was dropping off his daughter at a relative’s house felt like being raped:
“They’re out here, basically, going around sexually harassing people. They’re doing what they want,” he said.
While overall instances of stop-and-frisk have decreased in recent years, says the American Civil Liberties Union which has been monitoring illegal searches since 2011, the group issued a recent report showing that, when they do, Philadelphia police overwhelmingly stop people based on race.
In the second half of 2016, 77 percent of the people stopped and frisked were black or Latino, a group that makes up half of the city’s population, the report says.
To address the issue, Khalif told NBC 10 he and other activists were volunteering to fund trauma counseling for the young men who have endured such an ordeal. 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.”