The plaintiffs, individuals stopped by the Philadelphia police during "Operation Cold Turkey," brought a lawsuit in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs sued the City and the Police Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Represented by private counsel and an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the plaintiffs asked the Court for monetary damages, injunctive relief, and declaratory relief. The plaintiffs also filed a motion for class certification. They claimed that "Operation Cold Turkey" was unconstitutional because it caused them to be stopped, without probable cause, based solely on their presence in the targeted high-crime areas, in contravention of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
"Operation Cold Turkey," which was initiated on March 27, 1985, was carried as an attempt to reduce drug-related activity in certain areas of the city. People stopped who were found in possession of illegal drugs were arrested, and those not in possession of such drugs were to be released or charged either with disorderly conduct or obstructive passage. The operation resulted in the stopping, frisking and/or questioning of over 1,400 people. Of those individuals, about 200 of them were taken to a police station to be formally charged or arrested.
On April 10, 1985, in an unpublished ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Donald W. VanArtsdalen approved a consent decree that ordered the police to observe all constitutional requirements in carrying out "Operation Cold Turkey" and to refrain from stopping individuals based solely on their presence in the target areas.
On October 17, 1985, Judge VanArtsdalen granted the plaintiffs motion for class certification, and certified a subclass as well. The Court found that the plaintiffs' allegations were sufficient to satisfy the commonality and typicality requirements of the applicable federal procedural rule, because the plaintiffs had alleged that their claims arose out of a common course of conduct by the police. The court also found appropriate the certification of a class because the liability that plaintiffs sought to establish was based on the operation itself, rather than on the circumstances surrounding each individual stop or arrest. If, later, it appeared that individual circumstances of each encounter became predominate over the issue of the constitutionality of the police operation, the judge observed that he could then de-certify the class.
As of his October 1985, ruling, Judge VanArtsdale defined the class to consist of those individuals who were stopped, frisked and/or questioned by police as a result of, or in carrying out, the Philadelphia Police Department's "Operation Cold Turkey." Further, the judge certified a subclass consisting of those individuals who were either charged with summary offenses or arrested as a result of "Operation Cold Turkey." The judge directed the plaintiffs to propose a form of notice to the class members.
On November 13, 1986, the court ordered a settlement agreement, by which the City of Philadelphia was to pay the members of the class $500,000. Persons who were merely stopped, frisked, searched, and/or questioned, without being taken into custody or charged with an offense, were to receive $100.00; persons taken into custody and charged with summary offenses were to receive $882.3; and persons taken into custody and charged with misdemeanors were to receive $1,250.00. Furthermore, any pending criminal charges, bench warrants, and ARDs connected with "Operation Cold Turkey" were to be dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed within 45 days from the date of the ordered settlement agreement, and any records of arrests expunged. The City was also ordered to pay all counsel fees totaling $37,896.09. The settlement authorized the defendants to seek dissolution of the injunctive part of the remedy after 2 years. We don't know if that happened, because we don't have the docket sheet. Given that there's no electronic docket, which would likely have been initiated if anything further happened on the case after 2003, we have no reason to believe this case is still active. Mike Fagan - 06/25/2008
Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 10/23/2016