E-Net News

Jonathan C. Dunsmoor aids in reforming Philadelphia’s “stop-and-frisk” policy


A Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Elon Law alumnus Jonathan C. Dunsmoor currently oversees the Bailey v. City of Philadelphia project, which entails teaching law school students and attorney volunteers the fundamentals of Fourth Amendment search and seizure as it relates to police stops.  

Dunsmoor’s work stems from a 2010 federal class action filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU of PA) and the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg in US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging that thousands of people each year were being illegally stopped, frisked, searched, and detained by the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) as part of its stop-and-frisk policy. In 2011, the city of Philadelphia, the ACLU of PA and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg announced that they had reached a settlement agreement. Part of that agreement established a monitoring system for the review and analysis of future PPD stop-and-frisk data.

Through his work at the ACLU of PA, Dunsmoor was instrumental in the development of a March 19 report filed with the court, indicating that the overall number of PPD stops had decreased by nearly 15 percent, but that there were still approximately 45 percent of stops and frisks made without reasonable suspicion and that African-Americans and Latinos continued to be stopped at higher rates, with 76% of the stops and 85% of the frisks targeting minorities.

Dunsmoor said his group analyzes a small fraction of the of approximately 215,000 PPD stops per year.

“We have concluded the PPD still is stopping individuals with no reasonable suspicion and we are concerned about the racial disparity of the stops,” said Dunsmoor, who has trained about 80 volunteer attorneys and law students for the project since August 2012. “These volunteers evaluate the reasonable suspicion for the stop, reasonable suspicion for the frisk and probable cause for the search, if the latter two occurred.”

The ACLU’s announcement of the recent report on PPD stop-and-frisk policies is available here.

A news report from The Pennsylvania Record on this topic is available here.

A 2010 graduate of Elon University School of Law, Dunsmoor holds an LL.M. in Criminal Law with honors from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School.


Philip Craft,
4/2/2013 11:50 AM