Protesters are Sending Men's Underwear to the Philadelphia Police Department

June 1st 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Protesters are sending pairs of underwear to the Philadelphia Police Department to draw attention to what they consider discriminatory search practices.

They say that the police are searching black men's underwear in what they call "stop-and-probe."



The Black Lives Matter Movement of Pennsylvania delivered two pairs of men's underwear to the PPD to protest this aggressive form of "stop-and-frisk" searches. Stop-and-frisk is a highly contested practice of searching pedestrians when there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. However, opponents say that, in practice, it has been a way to randomly target minorities and artificially boost arrest statistics.

Local station NBC 10 reported that activist Asa Khalif stood outside the police department on Wednesday and accused the PPD of illegal practices. Khalif said PPD's actions were even more intrusive than the typical harassment associated with stop and frisk.

“It is illegal to stop and frisk. It is illegal to go into someone’s underwear and touch their penis. Touch their buttocks," he reportedly yelled with a megaphone. "You think it’s common practice and it’s legal, but it’s not."

A policewoman.

The protest comes after Mensah M. Dean of Philly.com published a report detailing stories of black men being forced to remove their pants in public.

"Stories of having pants undone and lowered, and underwear being rifled through, come from black men from various parts of the city," Dean wrote. "Their stories are strikingly similar. Sometimes drugs are found, sometimes not."

Berto Elmore, a Philadelphia defense attorney, told Dean that underwear searches are a method of control used on black men, just like the emasculating control tactics used during slavery.

“You have young people who have an imagery of being tough, and when you’re able to degrade them that publicly, it lets them know, ‘We’re the tough guys, not you. Look what we can do to you,’” Elmore told the Daily News.

The American Civil Liberties Union's David Rudovsky said searches of underwear as a part of stop-and-frisk is illegal.

“It’s completely impermissible as part of stop-and-frisk," he told the Daily News. "You can’t even go into someone’s pocket, much less his underwear.”


The Philadelphia Police Department told ATTN: that it does not employ "stop-and-frisk."

The Department's Office of Media Relations sent the following statement to ATTN: in response to the accusations about underwear searches.

"The department is looking into the allegations that have been made regarding the article; so at this time I would not be at liberty to discuss particular facts about this case; with that being said the department does have a policy on how strip/cavity searches are to be conducted when needed."

A directive given to PPD officers in 2016 states that strip searches should only be done when a suspect is taken into custody and even then "police personnel are not permitted to routinely conduct or authorize strip/body cavity searches on every individual taken into custody."

However, black men in the community say strip searches are happening on the street.

A 32-year-old man named Nafiys Walters told the Daily News that the underwear search he endured in 2010 felt like sexual assault.

“They were rough. They … threw me on the ground," he told the Daily News. "It was like damn near being raped. They did what they wanted with me.”

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