WaPo investigation finds Detroit Police detectives' caseloads are higher than average

Posted at 5:11 PM, Sep 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-17 15:50:17-04

Investigating homicides has become a daunting task for Detroit Police. An investigation by the Washington Post found that each detective in the department is responsible for solving eight new killings every year. But experts say, the typical caseload should be no more than five homicides per detective a year.

So far in 2018, Detroit detectives have had to respond to 185 homicides.

Even though Detroit Police re-organized their homicide division to beef up their manpower on certain shifts – detectives still have a very high caseload.

As part of a nearly year-long investigation, reporters from the Washington Post analyzed homicide numbers and arrest rates in the 50 largest police departments across the country.

The numbers they crunched for Detroit are staggering: Since 2012 – someone has been murdered nearly every 24 hours here.

"We found that over a 10 year period, there were about 2,500 killings, and of those killings, about 41 percent- so less than half, actually resulted in an arrest," Washington Post Investigative Reporter Kimbriell Kelly said.

Kelly talked to policing experts who said detectives should be working no more than five homicides a year. But that’s not what’s happening at DPD.

"By and large, their detectives were handling about eight new cases a year and that’s not what’s recommended for best practices and that’s not what’s recommended if you want to increase your chances of making an arrest," she added.

The reporters rode along with Detroit detectives as they went from crime scene to crime scene.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig says their arrest rates are improving. In 2017, the clearance rate was about 60 percent. He also says his detectives work extremely hard, but often have to wait for forensics analysis and warrant approvals from the Wayne County Prosecutor.

They’re understaffed but the reality is, we have a number of warrants waiting for a decision," Craig said. "That has a direct impact on arrests, it has a direct impact on clearance rates."

Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, sent us this response:


“In order to charge a case we need to have facts and evidence that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court. Each case is different, some cases are presented and we have what is needed to charge them more quickly. Other cases come in needing very extensive investigation before we can review it and make a charging a case. Ethically we must have sufficient evidence before a charging decision can be made.”


If you would like to see more of the analysis from the Washington Post, click here.