from the why-fight-crime-when-you-can-just-shuffle-papers dept
Police, v. : maintain law and order
Police, n.: responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the maintenance of law and order
Given these definitions, how is it that Washington, DC’s Metro Transit Police Department still has the word “police’ in its name?
Metro Transit Police can’t demonstrate that officers investigated thousands of reported robberies, assaults, sex offenses and property crimes over a span of several years, according to the agency’s internal watchdog.
In the case of 1,200 reported crimes, “investigative case files lacked any documentation of investigative activity,” according to a report released Thursday by the agency’s Office of Inspector General. More than 1,600 other case files were missing or withheld from the inspector general, according to the report.
Don’t let the name “transit” fool you as much as the word “police” has. The Transit Police “investigate” all crimes that occur on city transit property. Some of these are serious crimes. And they’re treated with way less enthusiasm than officers deploy against fare jumpers.
909 cases were open robberies (4.89%)
108 cases were open felony assaults (.58%)
471 cases were open misdemeanor assault (2.53%)
3 cases were open felony sex offenses (.02%)
66 cases were open misdemeanor sex Offenses (.36%)
48 cases were open indecent exposure cases (.26%)
1514 cases were open crimes against property (8.15%)
This is part of the long list of crimes that MTPD isn’t solving or even, apparently, investigating. The Inspector General’s report [PDF] is an entertaining read, but for all the wrong reasons. It details a distressing amount of incompetence or lack of cooperation. Or possibly both.
OIG began its investigation in August 2020 and has made multiple attempts to recover all 3,110 investigative files. OIG has provided MTPD numerous opportunities to produce all investigative material associated with these complaints, but MTPD’s production, to date, has been incomplete. After six months, multiple suspense deadlines, and given the significant decrease in the volume of investigative case files being produce by MTPD, the OIG closed its investigation with MTPD’s limited production of investigative files.
An analysis of the documentation provided revealed that approximately 84.1% (1,215 cases) of what MTPD described as investigative case files lacked any documentation of investigative activity. MTPD staff’s failure to properly and accurately maintain investigative files, evidence, and/or associated judicial records obstructed OIG’s ability to determine if CID Detectives ignored victim complaints between 2010 and 2017.
You know, obstruction is a crime. Obviously, someone other than the MTPD should investigate this.
Maybe it’s not just incompetence. The OIG notes it opened an investigation in 2012 after receiving an allegation that Transit detectives were falsifying investigations. In that investigation, the OIG found discrepancies between what was documented by CID (Criminal Investigations Division) detectives and what the OIG was told by crime victims it interviewed.
The obstruction/incompetence was present then, too.
As in this current investigation, in 2012, the OIG requested to review 2011 and 2012 CID case files; however, MTPD could not produce 88 out of 134 randomly selected suspended case files.
Corrective actions were ordered and supposedly implemented. But the Inspector General says nearly a decade later, some of what it recommended still has yet to be completed by the MTPD.
From what’s seen in this report, it appears the MTPD just isn’t interested in investigating crimes. The investigation files seen by the Inspector General contained almost no evidence any investigation occurred. Instead, it appeared CID detectives were simply checking boxes until the case could be closed, in most cases without any resolution.
Out of the 1,445 case files provided, 82.1% (1,186 cases) contained only a one-page closing document without any evidence that an actual investigation was ever conducted. Moreover, 2% (29 cases) contained only two documents, a closing document and the ER [End Report], which is a document generally prepared based on information gathered by the responding MTPD officer. In these 29 cases, however, there was still no evidence that an actual investigation was ever conducted.
Even though these one-page closing documents did not contain investigative activity, they were nonetheless used to change the status of these investigations from open to suspended, which signifies that no further investigative activity was warranted. Most closing documents were signed by CID management officials who justified the suspension status change of these investigations based solely on a written claim that the statute of limitations to bring charges against a suspect had passed along with a statement indicating they were unable to locate the original report and case file.
Sure, the statute of limitations can prevent some cases from being investigated further, but the MTPD had no idea if the statute of limitations had run because it often had no idea what specific crime was alleged. The cases were “suspended” by CID supervisors, who never bothered to speak to detectives to see what investigative activity had occurred or obtain further details about the alleged crime.
The whole system — bought and paid for with the tax dollars of underserved DC residents — sucks. It starts at the top, gets worse in the middle, and by the time it reaches the bottom, the only thing that does “work” is the perverse incentives.
OIG interviewed numerous other individuals who were current and/or former CID supervisors from 2010 through 2020. None of these individuals could definitively state that all 3,110 victim and general complaints were investigated. They all expressed concern over the discovery of 3,110 complaints that still appeared to be in an open status in the CID database. They generally attributed the lack of accountability and oversight of CID cases to a variety of factors, including lack of supervisory knowledge of CID’s duties and responsibilities; insufficient supervisory staff; lack of administrative case oversight; high caseloads; nonexistence of policies and procedures; and lack of a case tracking system. In addition, the interviews uncovered that performance evaluations of case work only focused on closure rates, which did not account for suspended cases and/or disposition of previously open cases from past fiscal years.
This investigation by the Inspector General is yet another MTPD-related investigation that can never be considered properly closed. The IG says it is forced to conclude that records related to 1,500 investigations simply no longer exist.
As the IG points out, this is abysmal and it will result in a host of negative side effects. The OIG says (again) the MTPD obstructed its ability to carry out this investigation properly. The large number of missing investigative files make it impossible to determine whether or not CID detectives ignored complaints from victims — another allegation of misconduct that cannot fully be resolved. The missing documentation will also put past prosecutions in jeopardy of being overturned. Finally, there’s the blow to public confidence the MTPD can’t possibly absorb — not with its history of tagging minorities for minor offenses while ignoring more serious criminal acts occurring in its jurisdiction.