View Full Version : Getting away with murder is the norm in Detroit

Mumm Ra
09-11-2009, 07:19 AM
Police chief calls city's closure rate 'abysmal'

Charlie LeDuff / The Detroit News

At least 7 in 10 people who committed murder in this city last year have gotten away with it.
The most generous interpretation of 2008 homicide warrants and convictions supplied by local law enforcement officials shows that in more than 70 percent of homicide cases no suspect has been identified, arrested, charged or convicted of a killing.

"The reality is, we have a reputation in the state that if you want to commit a crime, come here," said Kym Worthy, the Wayne County prosecutor who said she does not challenge the analysis. "The chance of arrest is quite low, the chance of prosecution is quite low. What does that say about the commitment to the public's safety?"
The Detroit Police Department reports 375 people were murdered in 2008, revising its number up from 306 after a Detroit News investigation into those statistics earlier this year. The Prosecutor's Office ruled 13 of those killings as justifiable or self-defense, lowering the number of criminal homicides to 362.
According to The News' review of warrants requested by the Detroit Police homicide squad last year, at most 70 cases ended with at least one person being sent to prison for murder or manslaughter. Another 31 homicide cases still are being prosecuted.
In another 22 cases, the prosecutor refused to issue an arrest warrant, instead returning the case to detectives for lack of evidence. In six cases, a defendant was penalized with only fines or probation after being charged with premeditated murder. And in another six cases, defendants pleaded to lesser crimes such as armed robbery or accessory after the fact.
And of those 2008 murder prosecutions, Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans estimates that as many as 10 percent were actually committed in prior years. That means that as many as three of four killings committed in Detroit in 2008 may end without a killer being brought to justice.
As a comparison, Oakland County reported 29 homicides last year. In all but one case, the defendants were sent to prison for murder. The other was sentenced for manslaughter, said Jessica Cooper, the Oakland County prosecutor.
"Is it hopeless?" asked Evans, who took command of the department seven weeks ago. "No. But do we have serious challenges? Absolutely."
Workload is huge

The closure rate for homicide -- defined by the FBI as a case when at least one person is arrested and turned over to the prosecutor for prosecution -- in 2008 was an " abysmal" 33 percent to 35 percent, Evans said. The national average, according to the FBI, is 62 percent. In Los Angeles -- a city with five times the population and three times the police force of Detroit -- the homicide closure rate was nearly 70 percent.
"In the end, it is what the police do that makes a difference as to whether a homicide is solved," said Charles Wellford, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Maryland who has studied homicide in Detroit and Los Angeles. "There is no big city with a clearance rate as low as Detroit's."
The Detroit Police force, for its part, is underfunded and understaffed, said Evans, who was recently named the third Detroit police chief in a year. The Prosecutor's Office maintains that its budget has been slashed by a third over the past six years, leaving too few prosecutors and investigators to handle the load.
"I only have one part-time homicide investigator, if you can believe that," Worthy said.
There also is the "no-snitch" phenomenon in Detroit, which means citizens often are either too frightened or too hardened to cooperate with police. And even in the rare cases when a suspect does make it to trial, there have been unpredictable elements of judge and jury.
Take the case of Deandre Woolfolk. In January 2008, Woolfolk and two confederates participated in a drug-related drive-by shooting in Detroit, killing a 15-year-old girl. Woolfolk was read his Miranda rights before he gave his confession on videotape, according to court documents.
Nevertheless, Woolfolk, who police say belongs to a deadly drug cartel, successfully argued later in court that he had earlier asked for a lawyer but detectives had denied him access. The judge released him in late February 2009.
Woolfolk, 20, now sits in the Oakland County Jail, accused of beating a man to death in early August at a Southfield nightclub.
The witness, Anthony Alls, who told police he saw Woolfolk deliver the deadly blow, was gunned downed two weeks later on Woodward as he left a barber shop. Alls was an applicant with the Detroit Police Department. There are no witnesses or arrests in his killing.
"It is absolutely horrible," said Gary Brown, a former deputy chief of police and current City Council candidate. "Today, I'm packing my gun just to go to CVS. The city is not safe. The city is out of control. And anyone who lives here knows so."
Evans said that during his brief tenure as police chief, he has discovered:
An evidence property room in chaos.
A crime lab shut down due to incompetence.
Computers in squad cars that don't work.
A new $2.5 million camera system in patrol cars that does not function.
The department cannot recoup the loss on the cameras because it never purchased a warranty, police have said. The system known as Compstat, a crime data and computer mapping system used by most major cities to identify crime hot spots, was discarded.
"No one has a clear understanding why Compstat was abandoned," said John Roach, the new police spokesman.
As many as 200 officers in the 3,000-person department who work behind a desk need to be returned to street patrol, Evans said. Those who work the streets often work with defective equipment, he added.
Detroit languishing

Detroit homicide investigators are overworked, handling as many as three times the caseload of their counterparts across the country. One detective, exchanging his candor for confidentiality because he fears reprisal from his superiors, recalled having to take a bus to a crime scene because there were no working pool cars. Predictably, experienced detectives have been retiring.
"We're going to have to analyze crime patterns and deploy our resources accordingly," Evans said. "We're going to have to develop a relationship with the community. That's how you solve murders. Through witnesses. Eyeballs.
"Look, the only thing I've been longer than a cop is black. I understand people's feelings about the police. We're going to have to work to let them know we're on their side."
His recipe for solving Detroit's crime problems mirrors that used in Los Angeles by William Bratton, the police commissioner hired by Mayor Ken Hahn in 2002.
Bratton, a former New York City Police commissioner, went to Los Angeles when crime was high and the morale in the Police Department was low. The department had been placed under federal oversight after it was discovered that rogue police officers had framed innocent citizens, stolen drugs and beaten suspects.
Employing an obsessive focus on crime data, Bratton cleaned up the City of Angels. Last year, Los Angeles reported 382 homicides -- just five more than Detroit. Violent crime is down 50 percent and the LAPD was removed from federal oversight last month. Bratton has resigned effective Oct. 31.
Detroit, on the other hand, has languished under federal supervision since 2003, for among other things using excessive force and illegally detaining witnesses. The department made little headway under the stewardship of Kwame Kilpatrick, the disgraced former mayor who was sent to prison for perjury, among other things. It also was revealed recently that Kilpatrick had a personal relationship with the federal monitor.
The governmental oversight, meanwhile, has been extended to at least 2011.
At the same time, the number of murders may climb well above 400 by year's end, said Evans. To make matters worse, he said, 50 to 200 people involved in murder and serving prison time will be paroled into Detroit this year by the state Department of Corrections.
"It's getting worse," said Evans. "But it will get better. It has to."
charlie@detnews.com (313) 222-2071

Ghost In The 'Lac
09-11-2009, 07:41 AM
"The reality is, we have a reputation in the state that if you want to commit a crime, come here," said Kym Worthy, the Wayne County prosecutor