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FATAL FLAWS

D.C. Police Knew of Homicide Problems

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By Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 17, 2007

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and other high-ranking officials knew for months about serious problems in the department's homicide unit, including shoddy investigations, underachieving detectives and poor oversight by supervisors, but failed to take immediate action, according to internal police records and interviews.

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William Corboy, who spent more than 10 years as a D.C. homicide detective and supervisor, said he hand-delivered memos to police officials, the mayor's office and several D.C. Council members, warning them that the homicide unit needed prompt attention.

"I wrote to all those people and said we were on track to achieve the worst homicide investigative performance of any major police department in the country," said Corboy, who retired as a captain June 23 after 20 years on the force. "Once again, a chief of police seems to be suggesting that he possessed no specific knowledge of what was occurring in the homicide investigation process."

An April 11 memo written by Corboy, which he gave to The Washington Post, spelled out problems he had found after examining hundreds of homicide case files.

"Common to all these cases is the lack of uniformity in the organization of the jackets themselves, a near total lack of investigative effort, and . . . the lack of any evidence of management oversight," the memo said.

Corboy's memo to Steve Gaffigan, the police department's quality assurance director, urged officials to take specific steps: initiate an immediate review of homicides that occurred in the first three months of this year; create standard procedures for case management and review; shift resources from the cold-case squad, a team of officers who investigate old killings, to new homicides; track gun recoveries; use crime mapping; and improve the use of personnel evaluations and discipline.


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