PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION SUPPORTING POLICE REFORM MEASURES AT LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL LEVELS

WHEREAS, it is the mission of the Philadelphia Bar Association to serve the public and the profession by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law; in so doing, the Association strives to foster understanding of, involvement in, and access to the justice system; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association supports the protection of Black lives and has a particular interest in seeing that the laws are faithfully and fairly enforced; and

WHEREAS, trust and respect between the police and the communities they serve is an essential component of public safety; and

WHEREAS, since January 1, 2015, 1,252 Black people have been shot and killed by police in the United States;1 and

WHEREAS, although Black Americans comprise approximately 13% of the population, they account for approximately 24% of those killed by police each year;2 and

WHEREAS, of those Black Americans killed by police, 17% were unarmed, the largest share of any racial group and 1.3 times the national average of police killings of unarmed people;3 and

WHEREAS, on average, 96 out of every 100,000 black men will be killed by police, while just 39 out of every 100,000 white men will be killed by police;4 and

WHEREAS, in Philadelphia, compared to whites, Black Americans are more than 50% more likely to be stopped without reasonable suspicion and are 40% more likely to be frisked without reasonable suspicion; that large disparity can neither be explained nor justified by non-racial factors;5 and

WHEREAS, in the wake of the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd, mass demonstrations have swept Philadelphia and the nation demanding, inter alia, an end to police brutality and calling for systemic law enforcement reforms; and

WHEREAS, a set of reform proposals at the executive, legislative, and local levels was proposed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by the Police Reform Working Group on June 2, 2020;6 and

WHEREAS, those reforms promote public safety by, among other measures, increasing publicly-available data, ending stop and frisk practices, creating an oversight board and independent review process when police kill or seriously injure people and other accountability and oversight measures, and introducing legislation “outlawing the police chokehold or using pressure to airways”; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association strongly supports these types of reform proposals and urges that such proposals be considered on a priority basis by the executive and legislative branches of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia government; and

WHEREAS, Breonna Taylor was killed in Louisville, Kentucky during the execution of a no-knock warrant; and

WHEREAS, the risk of destruction of evidence is far outweighed by the risk of violence to everyone involved in the execution of a no-knock warrant;

WHEREAS, the doctrine of “qualified immunity” shields police from accountability, serves to normalize police brutality, and restricts the ability of victims of police misconduct from obtaining justice in courts, thereby diminishing public trust in law enforcement institutions and in officials, including those who have not engaged in misconduct; and

WHEREAS, Congress can eliminate qualified immunity for police through legislation.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association calls on local, state and federal officials to take action, on a priority basis, to implement systemic and meaningful police and other criminal justice reforms to address racism and other injustice in policing and in the criminal justice systems of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and throughout the United States;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, as used in these Resolutions, “systemic and meaningful police and other criminal justice reforms” includes, but is not limited to, the elimination of unnecessary use of excessive or deadly force by police; outlawing the use of chokeholds or otherwise applying pressure to airways; imposing a legal duty on a police officer to intervene, if that officer observes another police officer engaging in unnecessary use of force; end the use of no-knock warrants; end abuse of stop and frisk; end qualified immunity for police; enhance police officer training; increase police accountability; improve and increase the transparency of police misconduct proceedings; reform the police arbitration system to make certain that arbitrations protect the interests of the public, as well as those of the involved police officer; impose a duty on police, or armed forces in civil enforcement situations, to identify themselves and not hide their identities (except when working undercover); require police officers (except when working undercover) to utilize body cameras in all interactions with the public and to reform the maintenance and distribution of body camera video; and take other steps to improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor or the Chancellor's designee to communicate the content of these Resolutions to the President, members of Congress, members of the General Assembly, the Governor, the Mayor of Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Council, other public officials, other bar associations, and the public at large, and to take such other action as may be appropriate.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: June 24, 2020


1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/ (last visited June 8, 2020) (see graphic attached as Appendix 1)

2 https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/01/george-floyd-death-police-violence-in-the-us-in-4-charts.html

3 https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2020-06-03/data-show-deaths-from-police-violence-disproportionately-affect-people-of-color

4 https://www.pnas.org/content/116/34/16793

5 PLAINTIFFS’ TENTH REPORT TO COURT ON STOP AND FRISK PRACTICES: FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT ISSUES, Mahari Bailey, et al, v. City of Philadelphia, et al, C.A. No. 10-5952 (EDPA), p. 2 (filed 4/24/2020).

6 https://www.pahouse.com/files/Documents/2020-06-02_031452__Updated%20Police%20Reforms%20(3).pdf (Reforms attached as Appendix 2)