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Metropolitan Police Department
Office of Quality Assurance
Progress Report on Homicide Reviews

June 26, 2001




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Washington, D.C.
Office of Quality Assurance, Office of Chief of Police
300 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Room 5059, Washington, D.C. 2000 · (202) 727-4301 · Fax (202)727-3896

June 26, 2001


To: Charles H. Ramsey, Chief of Police

From: Stephen J. Gaffigan, Senior Executive Director, Office of Quality Assurance

SUBJECT: Progress Report on Homicide Reviews

Attached for your information is a progress report on the efforts of the Homicide Review Team. It describes their efforts in assessing cases as well as a variety of other activities that members that members of the team have performed.

Two items are especially noteworthy in the report. One is that team members assisted the Institute for Police Sciences (IPS) in developing the criminal investigations course that was recently delivered to 26 newly appointed detectives. The other is that the ILJ staff has developed a mapping capability using the homicide database for the eleven year period, 19902000. Samples of maps using year 2000 homicides are provided in the appendix to the report. Other maps can now be produced based on pre-determined criteria, such as selected years, months, motive, open/closed status, etc.

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Progress Report
Homicide Case Reviews


In September 2000, Chief Charles Ramsey directed the Department's Office of Quality Assurance to conduct a review of homicide cases for the eleven-year period, 1990-2000. The mission of this office is to ensure the quality of all operational and support units with the Department. In particular, it is tasked with auditing and reviewing performance and systems with the aim of improving overall efficiency and effective. A review of homicide cases naturally came under this Office's mission.

The Office of Quality Assurance set the following objectives for the study:

  • Determine whether closed homicide cases have thoroughly investigated and properly closed according to the standards established by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system.
  • Record information on "solvability factors" for all open and closed cases with the aim of identifying those factors that most likely lead to successful arrests of offenders.
  • Code ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) forms on all homicides for submission to the FBI's national database in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Chief Ramsey and the FBI to provide this information.
  • Assist in the improvement of investigative training classes at the Department's Institute for Police Sciences.

All major police departments across the country adhere to guidelines provided by the FBI's UCR program for classifying crimes and designating cases as closed. The FBI publishes annual statistics on crimes reported to the police and arrests made by police departments on major offenses using information provided by local police agencies.

To conduct the study, the MPDC made the decision to contract with an qualified firm to ensure that the reviews were completed in a completely objective manner. As a result of that decision, a contract was signed with the Institute for Law and Justice, Inc. (ILJ), a nationally recognized criminal justice research organization headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.

ILJ's initial task was to analyze the homicide database maintained by the Investigative Support unit under the Department's Special Operations. The database contains information on every homicide including victim's name, incident address, home address of victim, date of incident, status of case (closed/open), initial detectives assigned, district of occurrence, and other relevant information. A separate database is maintained for each year. ILJ merged the 11 years of homicides into one database for easier access. Since that time, ILJ has maintained and improved the database.

Initial analysis of the database showed a total of 4,061 homicides over the 11-year period.1 Of that number, the MPDC has closed 2,361 homicides (58.2 %) and 1,700 homicides (41.9 %) remain open. More information on these cases is provided later in this report.

Project Accomplishments

ILJ contracted with 11 retired homicide investigators to participate in this study. Eight retired from the MPDC, two from the Baltimore, Maryland, Police Department, and one from the United State Postal Service. All had extensive experience in investigating homicides. For the project, the MPDC provided space in headquarters near the file room that contains all master case jackets for homicides. ILJ staff developed a coding form for summarizing the results of the reviews of closed cases. Over several weeks, the review team carefully read the master case jackets for closed cases and assessed the investigative results based on information in the jacket.

The most significant finding of the reviews of closed cases is that virtually all were investigated properly and closed correctly according to the FBI's UCR guidelines. The review team did, however, recommend that 35 cases be reopened for investigation. These have been assigned to detectives in the field for further investigation. In virtually all these 35 cases, the reason for continued investigative attention is that not all offenders have been arrested. That is, in most of these cases, at least one offender was arrested but additional offenders remain at large. Under UCR guidelines, these cases can be considered "closed" because one arrest was made. The official designation of these cases within the MPDC is "closed active" indicating that at least one arrest has been made but more investigation is warranted.

In addition to the basic mission to review closed cases, the review team has been involved in supporting several other initiatives within the MPDC to improve the investigations of homicides. These activities are discussed in the following sections.

Develop Criminal Investigator's Training Course

Members of the review team were asked to participate in the development of a new investigator's training course that was delivered May 10-30, 2001, to 26 recently appointed detectives. Course development was a joint effort with members of the Institute for Police Sciences (IPS), which serves as the MPDC's training academy. The complete curriculum for the three-week training course is provided as Appendix A to this report. The course was developed around six phases of criminal investigation:

  • Phase I: Establish the Circumstances of the Crime
  • Phase II: Extract Leads
  • Phase III: Develop Suspect Profile
  • Phase IV: Locate and Apprehend Suspect
  • Phase V: Preparing Arrest Paperwork
  • Phase VI: Support Case Prosecution
Key features of the course included the following:
  • Practical exercises for each phase
  • A mock trial to teach courtroom testimony
  • Use of qualified outside speakers on specialized topics, such as forensics.
  • Homework assignments to students on upcoming topics.
  • Issuance of a CD with an extensive DNA training module.
  • Instruction in the use of WACIIS which serves as the MPDC's primary investigative and intelligence system.

Find or Reconstruct Missing Case Jackets

During the course of the reviews, it was determined that a total of 378 master case jackets were missing from the file room. The review team was able to locate 246 of the missing jackets and return them to the file room. Many were obtained from prosecutors in the USAO's Office and from investigators assigned to district stations. The team reconstructed 132 missing case jackets by (1) retrieving reports available through the MPDC's WACHS investigative system, (2) obtaining incident and arrest reports from the MPDC's Records Room, and (3) copying death and autopsy reports from the Medical Examiner's Office. Through the efforts, the review team was able to review the cases for the purposes of this study.

Many of these case jackets had been missing for several years. In a previous study of homicides conducted in 1995, over 600 case jackets were missing from the file room. No effort was made at that time to systematically find or reconstruct the case jackets.

As a result of this study, the file room has the most complete and accurate information on homicides in over ten years.

Members of the review team currently maintain the custody and integrity of the homicide file room. New procedures are in place that minimize the possibility of losing case folders. The MPDC has installed a copier in the file room so that detectives can make copies of information from folders rather than removing the original. The review team assists detectives in locating master case jackets and related cases from the files.

Assist in Development of Homicide Standard Operating Procedures

The review team has been instrumental in developing and review the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for homicide investigations that is now in place. The SOP covers all aspects of homicide investigations with detailed information on the roles and responsibilities of first responders, lead detectives, supervisors and others.

In addition, review team members currently are developing a four-hour training module on the SOP that will be delivered by IPS personnel to all supervisors of homicide investigations. The module will emphasize the role of supervisors in monitoring and guiding these important investigations.

Members of the review team also assisted the IPS staff in developing a First Responder's video for roll call training on the Homicide SOP. The contribution of the team members was to ensure that the video showed best practices for the field from arrival at a homicide scene to completion of all paperwork to support the investigation.

Assist Superintendent of Detectives

The Superintendent of Detectives officially started his duties on June 11, 2001 with responsibilities for overseeing all investigators in the MPDC. The review team has held meetings with the Superintendent giving the results of the reviews and providing recommendations for improving homicide investigations.

In the future, it is expected that the review team will assist the Superintendent and his staff in investigations. Such assistance may take the form of researching specific cases or assisting in the actual investigations of selected homicides.

Access WACIIS for Master Case Jackets

As part of its review efforts, team members have been regularly accessing the WACHS system, which serves as the primary intelligence and investigative system for MPDC detectives. The WACHS system was recently upgraded with enhanced capabilities including the ability to enter more information on victims and suspects, capturing digital photographs of crime scenes, and printing key MPDC reports (MPDC Forms 251, 252, 163, and others). The upgraded system went on-line in January 2001.

Map Homicides in the City

ILJ staff members have developed a mapping capability for the MPDC that will allow investigators to prepare maps of where homicides are occurring in the city. Appendix B to this report shows a set of 13 different maps to illustrate this capability. The maps show the locations of homicides for year 2000. The appendix includes a citywide map of homicides, three ROC maps, seven district maps, and two PSA maps.

Maps can now be produced based on a variety of criteria. For example, maps can be made by selecting a time period (year, month, day of week, etc.), a geographic area (citywide, ROC, district, PSA), motive (drug, domestic violence, argument, etc.), type of victim (male, female), age of victim (juvenile, adult), and other criteria.

Code Solvability Factors for Closed and Open Homicide Cases

In addition to making determinations on closed cases, review team members have undertaken the task of capturing "solvability factors" for all open and closed cases. These solvability factors are based on a study conducted by Dr. Charles Wellford and Mr. James Cronin entitled An Analysis of Variables Affecting Clearance of Homicides: A Multi-state Study (Justice Research and Statistics Association, October, 1909). His study was based on a review of homicide cases in five selected sites across the country.

The solvability factors captured by the homicide review team at the MPDC cover information about the victim (gang member, employment status, prior arrests, etc.), number of witnesses identified at the scene, photographs taken, computer checks made, medical examiner results, and other information. In the next phase of the project, the solvability factors for closed cases will be compared against those for open cases with the view of identifying investigative priorities.

Provide ViCAP Forms to FBI National Database

Review team members have been completing ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) forms on all open and closed cases that have been reviewed. The ViCAP program is a nationwide data information center which collects, collates, and analyzes crimes of violence -- specifically murder. Its overarching goal is to identify offenses with common characteristics from different jurisdictions. Cases submitted to ViCAP are compared to all other cases in the database in an attempt to identify similar cases. Once a similar case has been identified, the agencies involved are notified of the similar cases.

The ViCAP forms completed by the review team will be forwarded to the FBI for inclusion in the national database. Information about these cases will therefore be available to investigators across the country. The ViCAP database for the 4,061 homicides will be accessible in the future by district detectives through linkage with the WACIIS system. Intelligence analysts at the MPDC will also be able to provide better information about homicides in the city through the local ViCAP database.

Analysis of Homicides in the District

As a result of this project, the MPDC now has more information about homicides in the city than at any time in its past. Information about specific cases is available through the databases that have been developed during the course of the study. Master case jackets are now available on all homicides in the city. Because of improved management of the file room, there are no missing case jackets.

In addition to specific case information, the MPDC will soon be in a position to analyze homicides in the city to a much greater extent than has been possible in the past. The progress on this analysis is the subject of this section of the report. In the coming months, all the forms on solvability factors and all ViCAP forms will be entered into the systems and be available for a more extensive analysis of homicides than is possible for this report. However, the following discussion shows the types of analysis that will be possible in the future.

From the database maintained on all homicides in the city, we know the following about the characteristics of victims of homicides over the eleven years, 1990-2000.

  • The number of homicides has decreased substantially since 1990:
Year Number Clearance Rate
1990 474 70%
1991 485 64%
1992 445 61%
1993 452 48%
1994 406 69%
1995 361 56%
1996 391 57%
1997 303 70%
1998 261 65%
1999 241 61%
2000 242 57%

Homicides for the last two years (1999-2000) are about half what they were at the start of the decade (1990-1991).

  • 3,760 (92.6 %) African-American victims 
    158 (3.9 %) white victims 143 (3.5 %) 
    other races (Hispanic, Asian, etc.)
  • 3,558 (87.6 %) male victims  
    503 (12.4 %) female victims
  • The average age of homicide victims was 28.5 years (31.9 years for females and 28.0 for males)
  • There were 153 instances in which 2 persons were killed, 20 incidents with 3 victims, and 1 incident with 4 victims.
  • About 20 percent of the homicides involved drugs.
  • Firearms were used in about 79 % of the homicides. Knives or other sharp objects in 12 % of homicides Blunt object in about 5 % of homicides.
  • 95 % of defendants were males. Most were 18 to 25 years of age.
  • Based on 490 ViCAP booklets, the motives for homicides were as follows:2 


Number Percent of Cases
Argument 279 56.9
Drug 108 22.0
Revenge 66 13.5
Robbery 59 12.0
Gang 40 8.2
Domestic 35 7.1
Child Abuse 17 3.5
Financial Gain 14 2.9
Bias 13 2.7
Driveby 12 1.4
Sex 6 1.2
Contract 4 .8
Organized Crime 4 .8
Burglary 3 .6
Kidnapping 3 .6
Witness 2 .4
Arson 1 .2
Other 25 5.1

More than one motive can be recorded in ViCAP for a case. This table shows 691 motives for the 490 cases, or an average of 1.4 motives per case. The percent in the last column is based on the 490 cases.

Next Steps

As part of this project, the review team submitted a report to the Department summarizing its observations on the quality of homicide investigations. That report also contained a series of recommendations, in addition to the efforts described above, for improving investigations. The Department is in the process of accepting many of these suggestions. The following shows the action items that the Department intends to take as a result of the review team's recommendations. The exhibit shows the problem area identified by the team, recommended action, and anticipated due date.

Issue Area

Recommended Action

Due Date

Improper 304.1 closures  Strict adherence to the Homicide SOP outlining FBI standards for exceptional clearances June 10, 2001
Case jackets improperly formatted  Detectives directed by Chief Gainer to immediately correct their families and follow the formatting in revised Memo 00-01  
Case jackets not updated with original documents and additional information such as case reassignments, new evidence, forensic re ports and grand jury indictments Memo sent out to all seven districts from Chief Gainer's office to send any missing paperwork from master case jackets June 22, 2001
Unsigned and unnumbered warrants  Addendum to Homicide SOP outlining procedures for numbering warrants  Issuance of SOP (July 2001)
Lack of supervisory case review  Regular review of detectives' case jackets and include updates in UN-512 Supervisory Checklist Immediately
Poorly formatted weekly homicide meetings  Structured format of weekly meetings created  Effective June 13, 2001
Poor communications with victims' families Continued maintenance of Hotline; research  and review of family requests; new unit? Ongoing
Lack of experienced investigators  New Investigator schools and more frequent training  First school took place May 10th-May 30th, 2001; Second school will take place September 2001
Lack of experienced investigator supervisors  New curriculum developed for Investigative Supervisors' Training Course August 2001
Lack of familiarization with Homicide SOP  Command Staff Training; Sergeants and Lieutenants workshop; department-wide dissemination with roll call video and training August 2001; July 2001; July 2001
Training is of particular importance to the MPDC in its efforts to improve homicide investigations. To summarize, the planned training efforts are as follows:
  • All MPD Operation's supervisors, sergeants and lieutenants will attend a four-hour training block to obtain a working knowledge of the Homicide SOP.
  • Command Staff training is under development for the department's senior command above the rank of Captain. The purpose of this leadership training is to build a team approach around the implementation of the Homicide SOP, focusing on management for results. This training will be a two-day, off-site seminar scheduled for early August.
  • Another course scheduled for early August 2001 is intended to enhance the investigative supervisors skills in managing an investigative unit.
  • The next three-week criminal investigators training course is under development. It will build on the recently completed course and will be ready for delivery in September 2001.

The MPDC intends to use members of the homicide review team in future months for a variety of other tasks. These will include (1) investigation of selected open homicides, (2) continued development of training courses at the IPS, (3) reviews of other violent crimes, including sexual assaults, robberies, and burglaries.

In addition, the NTDC intends to formally link the local ViCAP database with its WACHS system so that full information on each homicide will be available to investigators. This linkage will be done through a contract with ACISS, Inc., the developers of the WACHS system.

The homicide database developed by the review team will be recommended for official use by the MPDC. The advantage of this database is that it includes more information than the currently available database and has more accurate information on all homicides. To accomplish this task, input screens for new homicides will be developed and queries will be added for us by Investigations Support personnel.

Finally, the review team will develop a publication to provide the public with information on homicides in the city, where they are occurring, when they are occurring, the reasons for them, and other information.

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Washington, D.C.
Maurice T. Turner, Jr., Institute of Police Science


Week 1

May 10
May 11
0830-0900 Hrs     Introduction to WACIIS for 20 members from 0630 to 1500 hours Opening Remarks
Chief Ramsey
Commander Barrett
Phase I Continued: Establish the Circumstances of the Crime

Access Scene and Establish Crime Scene

0900-1000 Hrs     Pre-Test: Evaluating a Case Jacket
1000-1200 Hrs     Overview of the Criminal Investigation Process
Ex. Asst. Chief Gainer
1200-1300       BREAK BREAK
1300-1500 Hrs     Introduction to WACIIS for 20 members from 1530 to 2400 hours Phase I: Establish the Circumstances of the Crime

Immediate vs. Follow-up assignments, Overview of phase Tasks, Authority at the scene

Interview Victim

Follow-up Investigations

1500-1700 Hrs     Introduction to the Investigator's Notebook: How to Build a Case
SPO Joe Haggerty

Week 2

May 14
May 15
May 16
May 17
May 18
0830-0900 Hrs Investigator's Notebook
Debriefing Facilitators: SP Haggerty and Neil Trugman
Phase II Continued: 
Subconscious Communications: Conducting Interviews and Interrogations
Chief Rhoads (guest instructor)
Phase II Continued: 
Subconscious Communications: Conduction Interviews and Interrogations
Chief Rhoads (guest instructor)
Investigator's Notebook
Debriefing Facilitators
SPO Haggerty and Neil Trugman
Investigator's Notebook
Debriefing Facilitators
Officers Brantly and Webster
0900-1000 Hrs Phase II: Extract Leads
Crime Scene Processing and Handling Evidence
Access Workable Leads
Take Statements
Phase III: Develop Suspect Profile
Using Nicknames, associates, physical description, modus operandi, motive to develop identification of offender
1000-1200 Hrs
1300-1600 Hrs Canvassing
Obtaining Cooperation from Witnesses
Subconscious Communications: Conducting Interview and Interrogations
Chief Rhoads (guest instructor)
    Working all leads to identify the offender, such as fingerprints, composite sketches (E-fit) firearm evidence and vehicle information
1600-1700 Hrs How to Set up a Case in WACIIS (hands-on)   WACIIS block on searching MPDC databases for investigative purposes

Week 3

May 21
May 22
May 23
May 24
May 25
0830-0900 Hrs Phase III continued:
Developing confidential informants
Following leads from Pawn Shops and Second Hand Dealers
Developing a psychological profile
Investigator's Notebook Debriefing Phase IV continued: 0830-0930 ViCAP

Using investigative and patrol resources to locate suspect

Giving Miranda Warning and other legal issues

Phase V: Paper the Case

Preparation of arrest paperwork and presentation of case to USAO/OCC for court papering.
Instructors: AUSA

Phase V: Support Case Prosecution
Post Arrest
Case Jacket
Facilitators: AUSA
Heidi Pasichow and Stephanie Garbarczuk
0900-1000 Hrs Phase IV: Locate and Apprehend Suspect
Eyewitness identifications: Photo arrays, line-ups, show-ups and mug books
Paul Carroll (guest speaker)
1000-1100 Hrs  
1100-1200 Hrs Using the Media to help identify and locate the suspect      
1300-1500 Hrs   Obtaining warrants and conducting searches and seizures.

Paul Carroll (guest lecturer)

Giving Miranda Warning and other legal issues Phase VI: Support Case Prosecution

Preliminary hearings, Grand Jury proceedings, post-arrest Investigation, testifying, maintaining contact with victims.
Facilitators: AUSAs and Lt. McAllister

Phase VI continued: 

Presenting Courtroom Testimony and Courtroom Communication Styles

1500-1630 Hrs  
1630-1700 Hrs  

Week 4

May 28
May 29
May 30
0830-1100 Hrs HOLIDAY WACIIS Lab for 3 hours of instruction Phase V, VI Practicum: 

Moot Court Debriefing

(2 courtrooms)

Facilitators: AUSA

0900-1000 Hrs
1000-1200 Hrs  
1200-1300   BREAK BREAK    
1300-1500 Hrs     1. Working with other detectives
2. Managing a caseload.
3. Case dispositions

Facilitator: Lt. McAllister

1500-1700 Hrs Post-Test: Evaluating a Case Jacket  

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Appendix B: Maps of District Homicides, 1998-2000

Not available on-line

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1. The database also includes 103 justifiable homicides over the 11-year period. These were not included in the study.

2. The other ViCAP booklets are in the process of getting entered into the national database. When that is completed, a more extensive analysis will be possible.

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