The Philadelphia Police Department has been instructed to postpone arrests for low-level criminal offenses to limit officers’ exposure to COVID-19 and prevent the spread of disease.
The department announced the decision in an internal memo obtained by Billy Penn and WHYY states.
According to the memo, Philadelphia authorities will stop arresting for certain nonviolent crimes, including all narcotic offenses, retail theft, vandalism, burglary, and prostitution.
Beginning from Tuesday, arrests for these offenses will instead be “effectuated via arrest warrant,” according to Outlaw’s memo.
That means officers may detain and identify a suspect in order to gather evidence, but the alleged offender will then be released. Officers will then submit an arrest affidavit to the District Attorney’s Charging Unit: “If the charges are approved the assigned detective will obtain an Arrest warrant,” the memo reads. “The warrant will be served at a later time, as conditions dictate.”
“We are supportive of Commissioner Outlaw’s directive on making arrests during the Coronavirus crisis,” John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, told Fox29. “The directive was released to keep officers safe during this public-health crisis. Meanwhile, violent offenders will be arrested and processed with the guidance of a police supervisor.”