Confusion over numbers for award-winning D.C. Detective Milton Norris

February 18, 2012

When Milton Norris was nominated for D.C. Homicide Detective of the Year in 2011, officials said it was because of his impeccable record of solving cases the year before — a closure rate of 300 percent to be exact.

Officials described the veteran detective as a “standout” in the homicide unit who had closed all of his 2010 cases.

“During the year Detective Norris has repeatedly proven himself as a determined investigator who works tirelessly to bring closure to his cases as evidenced by solving and closing the most egregious of crimes, Homicide,” says the recommendation letter posted on the D.C. police Web site.

Norris won the award. But a review of his homicide cases by The Washington Post found that he had only two cases for 2010 and that both remain open. One was the robbery and fatal shooting of John Edwards, 58, who was killed Aug. 5 in the 1300 block of Good Hope Road SE. In the other, Antonio Wade, 18, was shot Dec. 11 during a dispute in the 1400 block of Ridge Place SE.

When questioned about his closure rate, Norris acknowledged that he hadn’t solved either case and directed questions to the supervisors who nominated him.

“I’m probably the wrong person to be talking to,” he said in an interview. “I don’t know what they go by to determine it. I don’t make the rules.”

D.C. police officials said Norris received credit for closing several cases from other years.

Lt. Ozetta Posey, Norris’s supervisor at the time, said it was her recommendation that led to his receiving the coveted award.

“I was out on sick leave but called in and had the sergeant write it [the nomination letter] up,” she said. “Every detective of the year for the last seven years has been under my supervision, including Milton Norris.”

The winners are chosen by a committee that includes several assistant chiefs.

From 2004 to 2010, Norris investigated 41 homicides and closed 24, a 58 percent closure rate, according to police records. About 10 of his cases ended in convictions, court records show. Three of his cases were closed without an arrest.

Norris received the award, which included a plaque, a medal and certificates signed by Chief Cathy L. Lanier and Mayor Vincent C. Gray, during the police department’s 11th annual awards ceremony last February at Gallaudet University’s Elstad Auditorium. Lanier presented the awards.

“It wasn’t no shock to me,” Norris said. “I’ve been doing police work for 23 years. I think I’m a rather good detective.”

Lanier said officials considered “several factors” in bestowing the award on Norris, but she would not elaborate.

“We believe he was deserving of that award,” she said in a written response.

Norris, who was paid $136,514 in 2010, including more than $61,000 in overtime pay, said he knew his record wasn’t what his supervisors claimed, but he didn’t dispute them during the ceremony — or afterward.

“I had no idea they said that about me,” Norris said. “It probably was a mistake.”

Another veteran homicide detective, Anthony Patterson, said he also was nominated and thought he had a good chance of winning. “I had three cases and closed them all,” Patterson said.

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