The anticrime effort by new Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter amounts to a redeployment of about 200 officers to a dozen high-crime districts, says Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Thomas Ferrick Jr. The added police will make more arrests, which will lead to preliminary hearings. where more than half of them will walk and go back out on the streets. Most – nobody knows exactly how many – are dismissed because the case fails to come together: Either witnesses or the arresting officers fail to appear. Or the prosecutor is not ready. Or an important piece of evidence has not arrived.
In Philadelphia’s high-volume court system, which handles more than 1,000 cases a week, preliminary hearings rarely come off as scheduled. They are postponed, and then postponed again, and then postponed again, and then dismissed by a judge who feels he must move on to other cases. Federal studies have shown that Philadelphia has the highest dismissal rate of any of the nation’s 75 largest counties – nearly double the national average of 24 percent. Policing alone is not going to solve the crime problem in Philadelphia. It must involve the entire criminal-justice system. which is not a system but a collection of independent duchies that do what they want, when they want, and how they want to do it. Ferrick believes the dismissal rate “is way too high, and it is because the process – moving a high volume of cases with maximum efficiency – has overtaken the goal of delivering justice.”