Due to efforts by the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union, the city of Philadelphia has adopted changes to the way they interrogate suspects and handle mug shots. Following the lead of other police departments in major U.S. cities, the Philadelphia police will being to video record all interrogations in homicide cases this year, a move which is believed to be potentially beneficial for both the prosecution and defense in any given case. Prosecutors could use the videotaped interrogations to sure up their argument that a confession was genuine. Defense attorneys believe that the videotaping will make coerced confessions less likely, and less prevalent.
Philadelphia police are also being instructed not to hold any suspects for longer than 36 hours if they have not been charged with a crime. This new policy will be joined by a departmental policy which states that detectives must remind witnesses that they can leave at any time they choose during an interview. This policy, which was previously only verbal, will now be officially spelled out in writing, adding more legal weight to it.
Another change the department will make this year will be having a detective who is not directly connected to a case handle the showing of mug shots to witnesses. This is meant to prevent unconscious signaling, such as leaning in or facial expressions, that a detective involved in the case may display to when showing the photo of the suspect. These "cues to the witness" can lead to false identification and a miscarriage of justice as a result. Mug shots will be shown one by one, as opposed to in an array, again to prevent unconscious cuing to the witness.
These changes to the pretrial identification and interrogation process will greatly decrease false confessions and claims for police coercion. Additionally, the changes will contribute to maintaining the integrity of every criminal investigation.
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