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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging the use of “stop and frisk” searches by Philadelphia police, alleging that the policy will give police free reign to racially profile minorities.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed the lawsuit on behalf of eight men — including a state lawmaker — it says were subjected to illegal searches since the city started using a controversial, “stop and frisk” campaign charged by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2008 in an attempt to slow violent crime.

By The Numbers: In the lawsuit, the ACLU cites city data showing that 253,333 pedestrians were stopped last year, compared with 102,319 in 2005. More than 70 percent of the people stopped last year were black and only 8.4 percent of the total stops led to an arrest, according to the ACLU.

“Our belief is that people are being stopped because of their race and not because of any individual activity that should raise any suspicion by police,” says Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, adding that stops were made by both black and white officers.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, seeks unspecified damages and a court injunction. It also alleges that police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has failed to train and discipline officers. Both Nutter and Ramsey are African-American.

In New York City, civil rights advocates have also challenged the use of “stop and frisk”; a lawsuit filed against the New York Police Department by the Center For Constitutional Rights is pending.


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