The Philadelphia Police Department will implement a sweeping new interview policy Jan. 1 that’s aimed at protecting the rights of people who are questioned by detectives and eliminating instances of investigators being accused of coercing confessions from suspects, reports the Philadelphia Daily News. A separate initiative, to be rolled out at a later date, will require interrogations in the Homicide Unit to be video-recorded, years after the practice became common in other police departments.
The new policies, which critics say are long overdue, are the product of a lengthy collaboration among the department’s top brass, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. “We’re trying to put the department in a position where, whether we’re talking about interrogations or any other aspects of an investigation, if there’s a better way of doing things, then we ought to be doing it,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Detectives must a supervisor’s approval to hold suspects for more than 12 hours, but refrain from holding them for more than 36 hours. Another provision is that investigators inform witnesses, victims and even potential suspects brought in for interviews that they may leave at any time.