In December Philadelphia City Council voted to ban ski masks in public spaces in a 13-2 vote. Two weeks later the bill became law without being signed or vetoed by Mayor Jim Kenney. The new ban would allow the city to fine people $250 for wearing a ski mask or balaclava in parks, schools, day-care centers, city-owned buildings, and on public transit. If the person is caught wearing a ski mask during a criminal activity, they would face a fine of up to $2,000. Council members Jamie Gauthier and Kendra Brooks opposed the bill.
The law will be hard to enforce as there are exceptions for religious garb, holiday costumes, work safety, theatrical productions, winter sports, and “First Amendment activities,” like protesting. Philadelphia is already a city that struggles with police brutality and racial profiling and this bill will not make things any better. Solomon Worlds, of the Philadelphia ACLU, called the legislation ‘fundamentally unfair’ when it passed council in November. He said it could further criminalize young people of color. “Safety is important, but there is no evidence to suggest ski masks cause or encourage violent crime,” Worlds said.
Councilmember Anthony Phillips said it could aid police in solving crimes. There have indeed been many instances where the suspect is wearing a ski mask and they can be harder to identify but I don’t believe banning ski masks will make identification any easier. If someone would like to conceal their identity they can still wear a surgical mask, gator face coverings, sunglasses, hoods, and more.
Ski masks became a trend after popular rapper Pooh Shiesty’s music video “Back in Blood” went viral but ski masks have been around since the 19th century. Polish soldiers used to wear ski masks during the Crimean War in 1854. Skiers, snowboarders, cyclists, and runners also wear ski masks to keep them warm during winter months.
Only time will tell if banning ski masks will have an impact on crime identification in Philadelphia but we seem to have much larger issues at stake..