Residents, police discuss alleged racial profiling in Lower Merion

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Tensions boiled over as members of the Lower Merion community sat down with police to discuss what residents allege is racial profiling by officers.

Tensions boiled over as members of the Lower Merion community sat down with police to discuss what residents allege is racial profiling by officers.

"For Lower Merion, this is based on 2011-2012 arrest rates: for non-blacks, 29.3; the black rate, 198.4," said Kim Mufe.

Many who attended the town hall meeting believe that statistic is an indictment of the Lower Merion Police Department, which critics say too often racially profiles black teens and adults.

The department's top brass heard an endless series of specific complaints about how blacks were allegedly treated by the local police.

Harry Mobley says his sons have been repeatedly stopped in their mostly white neighborhood since they were 9 years old.

Mobley also says he was stopped at gunpoint in the back of his Wynnewood home.

"I'm on my way to work. I'm professional, I'm dressed in khakis," said Mobley. "I'm walking through the alleyway that adjoins our two streets, and in come the police officers from both sides. I'm up against the wall, 'What's going on officer? What's going on officer?' 'Put your hands up against the gate! Guns drawn."

Lower Merion Police Superintendent Mike McGrath staunchly defended his officers and denied the charge they are acting out of bigotry and racial stereotyping.

"When we are wrong, we'll let you know we're wrong," said McGrath. "But when we're right, we're also going to say we're right."

Christine Howard, a longtime community leader who sits on the Human Relations Commission, says the complaints she took to the police yielded little, if any, satisfying results.

"The feedback I'm getting is, yes, we are having the meetings with the police department, but the people in this community don't feel that it goes beyond that," Howard said.

In Lower Merion, especially in Ardmore, the issues surrounding police relations with black community have run hot and cold for generations.

Long-term solutions have remained elusive, and the more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same.

Related Topics:
pa. newsracial profilingracismpoliceLower Merion Township
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