Philly police to stop making arrests during coronavirus outbreak

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has ordered her department to immediately stop making arrests for a number of criminal offenses during the coronavirus outbreak.

The United States faces an unprecedented crisis and city officials throughout the country are struggling to formulate a response strategy that will be effective in containing the spread of the disease. Philly has opted to forgo arrests and prosecution until a return to normalcy arrives.

WHYY obtained the memo drafted by Outlaw.

Crimes including theft, burglary, prostitution, stolen automobiles, narcotics, and vandalism will no longer result in arrests and detention. Instead, officers will identify suspects, file paperwork, and if the case is approved by the city’s prosecutor, Larry Krasner, a warrant may be issued for the individual in the future once the pandemic has subsided. Until that time comes, however, the criminal will be released back into the public.

The memo does provide some breathing room for officers who are particularly concerned about a suspect posing a safety risk to the community:

“If an officer believes that releasing the offender would pose a threat to public safety, the officer will notify a supervisor, who will review the totality of the circumstances and utilize discretion, in the interest of public safety, in determining the appropriate course of action,” Outlaw’s memo reads.

Yesterday, DA Krasner called on the city to modify their arrest policies until the viral outbreak could be contained.

There are 96 confirmed cases in Pennsylvania and 18 in the city of Philadelphia at the time of this report.