An Exploratory Multilevel Analysis of Pedestrian Frisks in Philadelphia
Forthcoming in Race and Justice
46 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2017
Date Written: May 30, 2017
The City of Philadelphia has faced significant litigation related to racial and ethnic disparities in stop-and-frisk practices. The Philadelphia Police Department has made much of its stop-and-frisk data publicly available in the name of transparency and to facilitate independent investigation (the data describe over 350,000 pedestrian stops with over 45,000 pedestrian frisks for 2014-15). The current analysis made use of this public dataset to explore whether the individual-level relationship between Black racial classification and being subjected to a frisk can be explained by associated neighborhood-level factors such as the violent crime rate. Additionally, the present analysis examined whether variation in the violent crime rate is similarly related to the likelihood of being frisked in predominantly Black versus non-Black areas and whether area racial composition affects the likelihood that an officer’s decision to frisk will be supported with uncovered contraband. The results were consistent with theories of neighborhood racial stigma. In particular, the violent crime rate was a significantly weaker predictor of being frisked in Black areas, and net of a variety of factors at the individual and neighborhood levels, Black citizens and Black places experienced a disproportionate amount of frisks where no contraband was found.
JEL Classification: K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation