- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2000

District of Columbia police Chief Charles H. Ramsey Thursday said detectives will reopen at least 1,000 cases both closed and unsolved, dating back more than 10 years after a review showed many homicide files were incomplete or not properly closed.

Many homicide cases had missing or incomplete paperwork, but others were labeled as closed after one suspect was arrested even though several others were never caught, Chief Ramsey said during WTOP-AM's "Ask the Chief."

"I believe that each and every case ought to be complete, period. Nothing less than that is acceptable," the chief said during his appearance on the radio program.

He said investigators as far back as the late 1980s labeled an unusually high amount of cases as "exceptional clearances," a term that means a suspect subsequently was killed. It frequently happens with gang violence.

"It's not unusual for the people who are responsible for doing shootings to wind up later on as victims themselves of a shooting in retaliation," Chief Ramsey said.

Those cases, in which some suspects could still be at large, will be reviewed, Chief Ramsey said, adding that other cases were lacking autopsy reports and other essential documents.

Some cases "just show a lack of real protocol that was used in these investigations and it led to a lot of incomplete or missing information," he said. "You can't solve cases if you don't have complete, thorough investigations."

Detectives also will begin contacting relatives of old homicide victims on a regular basis.

Much of the problem is rooted in the department's long-standing process for dealing with homicides, Chief Ramsey said.

The process can be improved with better case management, a set review system, more supervision and new training or refresher courses on conducting investigations, he said.

"The process is really what is dysfunctional and is hurting us and is causing us to not have the kinds of clearance rates we're supposed to have," Chief Ramsey said.

The Metropolitan Police Department will join with London's Scotland Yard to form a Criminal Investigators Academy to enhance training for homicide detectives and create a system to better monitor the cases.

Officials still are trying to determine how many cases they will scrutinize, but it will be "an enormous number, depending on how far we go back," which will be at least 10 years, Chief Ramsey said.

This problem isn't new to many in the department, the police chief said.

He noted that a study by the National Drug Intelligence Center of 1,200 homicides in the early 1990s found the same problems the recent review found, but the department never followed them.

But diverting the resources for the cases could pose a problem, Chief Ramsey said, noting that the city's homicide rate has increased this year.

"We'll have to bring in some folks to look at this. You can't pull all your detectives off the street to go on the old cases," he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide