Cleveland police adding district detectives to homicide unit amid uptick in deadly shootings
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland police department is temporarily adding seasoned district detectives to its homicide unit as the number of unsolved killings continue to plague the department.
The homicide unit is currently understaffed by the department’s own standards, and and in the opinion of an outside research group hired by the city to analyze problems within the unit. The department is expected to add several detectives for the late summer months after Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams made an unprecedented move to temporarily assign district detectives to investigate homicides.
Williams sent out the notice to the detectives on July 31, believed to be the first time the department has used district detectives to help investigate homicides during a four-month span.
The move comes at a time when the city’s homicide rate in 2018 is out-pacing 2017.
As of Monday, the city has 74 homicides. There were 70 homicides at the same point in 2017. There were 65 at the same time in 2016, when the city had 136 homicides, the second-most in a 12-year span.
Williams has not yet decided how many detectives will be selected, nor when they will start. They will return to their previous positions after they 120-day appointment is up.
It will essentially be a try-out for the district detectives who want to work in the homicide unit as Williams tries to fill out the unit’s roster.
The new collective bargaining agreement allows Williams to pick two detectives for the homicide unit for every three new officers the department adds. The other comes based off a seniority and minimum qualifications for the position, including having prior investigative experience.
There are 13 homicide detectives, another officer on desk duty and three supervisors in the unit. The city is budgeted for 23 detectives and supervisors.
A study by the Washington D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum on Cleveland’s homicide unit said the the department needs more investigators in the unit in order to combat dwindling murder-solving rates.
The city had 19 detectives in 2009, investigated 122 homicides and solved 77 percent of the cases. By comparison, the department had only 13 detectives in 2015, 128 homicides and solved only 56 percent of the cases, the report found.
The report also took issue with the way there are no formal criteria for the chief’s picks and that the seniority picks often retire within a few years, leading to a high turnover rate and less institutional knowledge.
The report also acknowledged that having district detectives’ expertise on homicide investigations could prove invaluable because district detectives investigate all of the city’s non-fatal shootings, along with armed robberies and burglaries, that often lead them to having a distinct knowledge of the area they police.