Police Wary of Philadelphia. DA Williams’ “Better Evidence, Fewer Cases” Policy


Philadelphia prosecutors are demanding more and better evidence from police — more witnesses, more documents, more phone and video records, more searches, before filing charges, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. That mandate, imposed by District Attorney Seth Williams when he became the first new district attorney in nearly two decades, is designed to make cases stronger in court. Statistics show that a greater proportion of cases are advancing to trial.

Williams’ policy shift has sown tension between prosecutors and police. Critics say the new system is frustrating at best, and at worst, risks permitting dangerous people to remain free and strike again. That happened in one 2010 case. “Short of getting caught with a smoking gun in your hand, it’s tough to get them to arrest,” said John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police local. “They want a sure thing.” Williams is filing far fewer cases. His office last year brought 17 percent fewer violent-crime cases than the number brought in 2009, the last year Lynne M. Abraham was in office as D.A. Williams says the overhaul of how prosecutors file cases has been a “huge success,” paying off with improved cases and charges that better fit the crimes. He says, “We’re not going to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.”

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