It’s not every day the police announce that they will no longer be doing their jobs. So when it does happen, it tends to cause some chaos, to say the very least. It may be hard to believe, but that is precisely what the Fraternal Order of Police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania declared on Tuesday.
They believe that in these already chaotic times of the spreading Coronavirus, extra precautions need to be taken to limit their officers, inmates, and the public’s interactions with those who could already be infected with the virus. Their answer is to no longer make arrests for non-violent crimes, including prostitution, burglary, theft, narcotics, fraud, and stolen vehicles, according to law enforcement journalist Rob O’Donnell.
However, the action, or lack thereof, has caused panic of a whole new kind. Instead of people worrying about going out and getting infected, they are now worried about people breaking in.
Businesses, like this liquor store on 69th street, are boarding up windows and fortifying doorways to protect themselves as well as possible from the seemingly imminent risk. Many of these businesses have been closed for the foreseeable future due to the virus, either of their own volition or on superior orders. But with no personnel there to protect the storefronts, the damage is highly possible.
Steve Keeley tweeted, “To hopefully prevent looting while shutdown, The PA state liquor store on 69th Street is boarded up like it’s ready for a hurricane. After closing indefinitely for Coronavirus, the glass windows&doors are now all covered with thick plywood.”
Philadelphia Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has since “clarified” that criminals would still be getting arrested, and their crimes would not be ignored. However, in the process of issuing such clarification, she did little to ease anyone’s mind.
She stated, “To be clear, the Philadelphia Police Department is not turning a blind eye to crime. Persons who commit certain nonviolent offenses will be arrested at the scene.” But then she went on to explain that it would be more of a catch-and-release scenario.
Outlaw said, “Once their identity has been confirmed, they will be released and processed via an arrest warrant.” She describes the process as one very similar to the “summons process” that other counties in the Commonwealth use.
So basically, if a crime is committed and an individual is caught in the act, their name and contact information will be taken. They will then be released to continue on as they please. At some later date, when all of this mess is over, those individuals will be apprehended, and their crime processed. But who knows when that will happen.
Outlaw, however, did state that officers, with the approval of their supervisor, would have the ability to physically take custody of individuals in some instances. But only when they believe those persons would be a danger to themselves or others in the immediate future.
Naturally, citizens both in Philly and elsewhere are concerned about their well being and their livelihoods.
Journalist Noah Rothman says, “At a time when people are feeling very insecure, this seems like an incredibly bad idea.”
And Senator Ted Cruz agrees, saying, “For the criminals in town, good to know. For the citizens of Philly, not so much.”
The police department is essentially giving all petty crimes a free pass to do as they please. And it seems unlikely that avid criminals will let this opportunity go to waste.
And Philly isn’t the only city considering such measures. New York City officials have also stated that they are assessing similar ideas, as well as freeing prisoners of lesser non-violent crimes to “flatten the curve” of infection within the prison and jail systems.
Los Angeles and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where Cleveland is located, have already moved to release hundreds of convicted criminals so that officers and inmates alike are less likely to catch the virus in their jails. LA Shariff Alex Villanueva says, “Our population within our jails is a vulnerable population just by who they are, where they are located, so we’re protecting that population from potential exposure.”
Yeah, by putting them out on the streets with who knows how many others who are already contaminated and where they could do much more damage. Sure makes a lot of sense to me. Not.