Philadelphia police to reduce low-level arrests in wake of coronavirus outbreak

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Philadelphia’s police commissioner vowed Wednesday that the city’s officers are “not turning a blind eye to crime” amid the rollout of a new policy that calls for a delay in arrests of those who commit certain non-violent offenses.

The policy was announced Tuesday in response to the coronavirus outbreak and concerns that jails are facing a greater risk of becoming overcrowded and infected now that Philadelphia’s courts have been ordered to remain closed until April 1.

Under the new directive, those accused of crimes such as burglary or prostitution will be temporarily held to have their paperwork filled out before being released and arrested on a warrant at a later date.

“To be clear, the Philadelphia Police Department is not turning a blind eye to crime,” Danielle Outlaw, its commissioner, posted on Twitter.

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“An officer still has the authority to utilize discretion and take an offender into physical custody for immediate processing, if the officer and supervisor believe the individual poses a threat to public safety,” she added.

The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police is supporting the new moves.

“The directive was released to keep officers safe during this public-health crisis," John McNesby, the president of FOP Lodge 5, said in a statement to Fox 29. “Meanwhile, violent offenders will be arrested and processed with the guidance of a police supervisor."

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District Attorney Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia Inquirer says, announced his office is trying to release most of those charged with non-violent offenses and misdemeanors without needing to post bail. He also has asked police to use discretion in making arrests in hopes of reducing the risk of jail overcrowding, the newspaper adds.

Across America, other police departments are taking to social media to urge criminals to play nice during the coronavirus outbreak – and not put themselves or anyone else in danger by staying out of trouble in the first place.

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“Due to the confirmed case of #COVID19 from community spread, Salt Lake City Police Department is asking all criminal activities/nefarious behavior to cease until further notice,” the Utah capital’s law enforcement wrote in a tweet. “We appreciate your anticipated cooperation in halting crime & thank criminals in advance.”

“We will certainly let you know when you can resume your normal criminal behavior,” quipped the Blaine Police Department in Washington State.