PoliceIssues | Crime and Justice

Murder clearances have declined. Should we worry?
(#313, 6/9/18)

      Murder has always been the most frequently cleared serious crime. In the mid-1970s police were reportedly solving an impressive eight out of ten homicides. But a downtrend apparently took hold. Clearances fell to 72 percent in 1980, 67 percent in 1991, and 63.1 percent in 2000.

    In 2008, with clearances stuck in the mid-sixties, the Feds stepped in. Four years later BJA released “Homicide Process Mapping: Best Practices for Increasing Homicide Clearances.” Produced by the IACP and the Institute for Intergovernmental Research, the 54-page report set out promising approaches to homicide investigation in seven jurisdictions of varying size: Baltimore County PD, Denver PD, Houston PD, Jacksonville S.O., Richmond PD, Sacramento County S.O. and San Diego PD. Why were these agencies chosen? In 2011, when the overall murder clearance rate was 64.8 percent, each enjoyed a rate exceeding 80 percent.

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To avoid anointing Trump
the FBI Director falls into a trap of his own making

     “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election. In fact, it’s not just strange; it’s unprecedented and it is deeply troubling.” One day after the FBI Director’s startling reveal about a new trove of emails, Hillary took a swing at the very same official who, in an equally “unprecedented” move, had recently exonerated her from criminal liability. We’ll know in a few days whether Comey’s letter to Congress was indeed the equivalent of running over Hillary’s quest for the Presidency with an “18-wheeler” (as DNC chair Donna Brazile put it) or simply another annoying distraction in a most annoying Presidential campaign.

     Still, there’s little doubt that James Comey’s maneuverings created the perfect storm of a dilemma. We’ll get to that in a moment. For now, let’s address the email scandal of which so much hash has been made.

     When Hillary was anointed Secretary of State she turned up her nose at the thought (horrors!) of a State.gov email address. Instead, America’s chief diplomat continued to use her beloved Blackberry and a personal email account that routed messages through a private server installed at her home. Despite her repeated denials, she used this process for conveying and receiving classified information. Here’s an extract from Director Comey’s initial press release that describes the security status of thirty-thousand work-related emails that Hillary’s lawyers reluctantly turned over to the FBI:

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Debating the virtues of
a less punitive agenda

     During the early 1970s New York’s “Rockefeller laws” sought to quell rampant drug dealing and drug-related violence by imposing mandatory prison sentences on persons caught selling or possessing modest quantities of heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs. In 2009 the state changed course. Many so-called “low-level” drug offenders – meaning possessors and dealers whose involvement was modest and who lacked a prior conviction for a violent crime – could escape incarceration by completing a course of treatment. Six years later the Vera Institute announced the outcome of a study that compared matched samples of offenders processed under both schemes. The results seemed encouraging. Fifty-four percent of those sentenced under the old, punitive Rockefeller laws were rearrested within two years of release or discharge, six percent for a violent offense. For those diverted to treatment under the new laws, the outcomes were thirty-six percent and three percent, respectively.

     New York isn’t alone. Last year we blogged about California’s Proposition 47, which reduced penalties from felonies to misdemeanors for grand theft, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks, and check forgery when losses were under $950. Possessing drugs also became a misdemeanor. A similar approach was adopted by the Feds. In 2014 the U.S. Sentencing Commission relaxed Federal drug sentencing guidelines, enabling as many as 6,000 inmates to seek immediate release, and up to 40,000 more in the not-so-distant future.

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Prior posts

The Blame Game Inmates are “realigned” from state to county supervision. Then a cop gets killed. (#312, 5/21/18)

Is Your Uncle a Serial Killer? Police scour DNA databanks for the kin of unidentified suspects (#311, 5/6/18)

There's no "Pretending" a Gun Sometimes split-second decisions are right, even when they're wrong (#310, 4/18/18)

A Reason? Or Just an Excuse? Figuring out why officers kill persons “armed” with a cell phone (#309, 4/5/18)

Loose Lips Enable Terrorists Safeguard sources and methods. Or wish that you had. (#308, 3/27/18)

Again, Kids Die. Again, our "Leaders" Pretend. Like the Dem’s, the GOP addresses gun lethality with make-believe (#307, 3/17/18)

Routinely Chaotic Rule #1: Don’t let chaos distort the police response. Rule #2: See Rule #1. (#306, 3/6/18)

Ban the Damned Things! There’s no “regulating” the threat posed by highly lethal firearms (#305, 2/21/18)

Why do Cops Lie? Often, for the same reasons as their superiors (#304, 2/10/18)

Be Careful What You Brag About (Part II) Citywide crime statistics are ripe for misuse (#303, 1/25/18)

Be Careful What You Brag About (Part I) Is the Big Apple's extended crime drop all it seems to be? (#302, 1/15/18)

Accidentally on Purpose A remarkable registry challenges conventional wisdom about the causes of wrongful conviction (#301, 12/24/17)

Massacre Control What can be done to prevent mass shootings? (#300, 11/19/17)

"Bump Stocks" Aren't the (Real) Problem Outlawing them is a good idea. But it’s hardly the solution. (#299, 10/8/17)

Sanctuary Cities, Sanctuary States (Part II) Should states legalize recreational pot? (#298, 9/5/17)

Sanctuary Cities, Sanctuary States (Part I) What happens when communities turn their backs on immigration enforcement? (#297, 8/23/17)

Three (In?)explicable Shootings Grievous police blunders keep costing citizen lives. Why? (#296, 8/1/17)

Silence Isn't Always Golden A proposal to deregulate firearms silencers ignores the hazards of policing (#295, 7/14/17)

A Lost Cause Legislators are ambushed. And a gun-numbed land shrugs and moves on. (#294, 6/24/17)

Are Civilians Too Easy on the Police? When attempts are made to sanction cops, citizens often get in the way (#293, 6/3/17)

Ideology Trumps Reason Clashing belief systems challenge criminal justice policymaking (#292, 5/16/17)

People do Forensics Conflicts about oversight neglect a fundamental issue (#291, 4/30/17)

Why Do Cops Succeed? Shifting resources from finding fault to studying success (#290, 4/13/17)

Guilty Until Proven Innocent Pressures to solve notorious crimes can lead to tragic miscarriages of justice (#289, 3/19/17)

Is Crime Up or Down? Well, it Depends It depends on where one sits, when we compare, and on who counts (#288, 2/27/17)

An Illusory Consensus (Part II) Good intentions don't always translate into good policy (#287, 2/10/17)

An Illusory Consensus America's police leaders agree on the use of force. Or do they? (#286, 1/29/17)

Do Gun Laws Work? Are they doing any good? We crunch the numbers to find out (#285, 1/11/17)

Is Trump Right About the Nation's Inner Cities? America's low-income communities desperately need a New Deal (#284, 12/17/16)

A Stitch in Time Could early intervention save officer and citizen lives? (#283, 11/26/16)

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished To avoid anointing Trump, the FBI Director falls into a trap of his own making (#282, 11/2/16)

A Matter of Life and Death In an era of highly lethal firearms, keeping patrol informed is job #1 (#281, 10/20/16)

Is it Always About Race? Unruly citizens and streets brimming with guns make risk-tolerance a very hard sell (#280, 10/5/16)

Words Matter In a conflicted, gun-saturated land, heated rhetoric threatens cops’ effectiveness - and their lives (#279, 9/17/16)

Where Should Cops Live? Officer-citizen conflicts stir renewed interest in residency requirements (#278, 9/2/16)

Getting Out of Dodge For families caught in dangerous neighborhoods, there is one option (#277, 8/19/16)

Better Late Than Never (Part II) DOJ proposes rules for forensic testimony. Do they go far enough? (#276, 8/3/16)

Good Guy/Bad Guy/Black Guy (Part II) Aggressive crime-fighting strategies can exact an unintended toll (#275, 7/18/16)

Good Guy/Bad Guy/Black Guy (Part I) Do cops use race to decide who poses a threat? (#274, 7/18/16)

Intended or not, a Very Rough Ride A hung jury and two acquittals mar Baltimore's crusade against police violence (#273, 7/3/16)

A Ban in Name Only Pretending to regulate only makes things worse (#272, 6/21/16)

Better Late Than Never (Part I) A "hair-raising" forensic debacle forces DOJ's hand (#271, 6/10/16)

Location, Location, Location Crime happens. To find out why, look to where (#270, 5/25/16)

Orange is the New Brown L.A.'s past sheriff and undersheriff pack their bags for Hotel Fed. (#269, 5/7/16)

Role Reversal Chicago's falling apart. Who can make the violence stop? (#268, 4/25/16)

Is a Case Ever too Cold? Citing factual errors, an Illinois prosecutor successfully moves to free a convicted killer (#267, 4/16/16)

After the Fact Ordinary policing strategies can't prevent terrorism (#266, 3/31/16)

More Rules, Less Force? PERF promotes written guidelines to reduce the use of force. Cops aren't happy (#265, 3/18/16)

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