Phila. Police face lawsuit over alleged racial profiling incident

By Jon Campisi | Dec 19, 2012

Another Philadelphian is suing city police over allegations that a policy, practice and custom of the law enforcement agency leads to civil and constitutional rights violations.

Jeffery Leach, a middle-aged African American male, claims that officers followed him through three traffic lights on Market Street in downtown Philadelphia back on Dec. 17 of last year as a mere pretext to perform stop on the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The officers, allegedly without cause or justification, and acting in concert and conspiracy, pulled Leach over, conducted a visual inspection of the car and detained both the plaintiff and his passenger, the suit claims.

Leach asserts that when he inquired as to why he was being stopped, the defendant officer, who is identified as Jerrold Harris, became irate, and ended up issuing Leach a citation for having his vehicle block a crossway.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Leach claims that he was racially profiled because he is black, and that the incident was due to a policy, practice and custom of the Philadelphia Police Department that allows such profiling to take place against citizens.

“The PPD has a history of conducting stops, frisks, detentions and searches without probable cause or reasonable suspicion and of intentionally subjecting persons to these measures, based on their race or ethnicity,” the complaint reads.

The City of Philadelphia, which is named as the third and final defendant in the litigation, is accused of failing to properly train, supervise and discipline its police officers with respect to constitutional standards and limitations in conducting stops, searches and detentions under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The suit says that the city has failed to take appropriate disciplinary action and corrective measures against officers who have engaged in unjustified stops, failed to adequately monitor PPD officers who have incurred a “substantial” number of civilian complaints related to unjustified searches and seizures, and failed to take appropriate measures against officers who provide fabricated, false or impermissible justification for such stops.

The complaint mentions the 2012 case of Mahari Bailey et al v. City of Philadelphia et al., in which the parties entered into a settlement agreement that required the city to implement a policy and training initiatives that would provide officers with the necessary training and supervision to ensure that the officers abide by the restrictions on their investigative powers under the constitution.

“A principal reason for these provisions was a history of racially biased policing in Philadelphia,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint notes that on three separate occasions during the 1980s, federal courts intervened to enjoin PPD practices that violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, in addition to unspecified compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.

Leach is being represented by Philadelphia attorneys James P. McGarrity and Yalonda E. Houston.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-07018-JCJ. 

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