Judge William B. Bryant, chief judge of the U.S. District Court here, has ordered the District police department to account strictly for any cases in which arrested persons are detained for longer than four hours before they are brought before a judge.
Bryant's order followed his ruling in a closs action suit last May which determined that police regularly detained arrestees for long periods of time before bringing them to court and thus violated their constitutional right to reasonably prompt hearings on the charges against them.
At that time, Bryant ordered the police department to draw up a plan by June 30 to eliminate "long, unnecessary and unconstitutional delays," but city attorneys, acting for the police department, asked for an extension so they could consult with the chief judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals and the Superior Court about new procedures.
In response, Bryant signed an interim order last Friday, giving the police department until Dec. 1 to submit a final proposal for correcting the procedural delays.
In the meantime, Bryant ordered, the police department must account fully for any cases in which a defendant is held for more than four hours before he is presented to a court. If the four-hour period is exceeded, the department must also document fully what efforts were made to notify Superior Courts, or U.S. District Court, that a defendant was ready to appear in court.
Robert L. Chernikoff, an assistant corporation counsel who represented the city in the lawsuit, said one reason for delays might be the unavailability of a judge during the nightime to hear a case, or delays in fingerprinting and photographing of suspects.
In his earlier order, Bryant had said that it normally should take no longer than an hour and a half for police to process a defendant for court.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of the National Capital Area - which brought the class action suit against the police - found that in a four week period, more than 60 per cent of those arrested by city police were detained for more than a full day before they appeared in court.