A letter sent from the Davidson County district attorney’s office to metro police chief Steve Anderson requests that a centralized murder squad be re-created, citing a decrease in the clearance rates of homicides since 2004.
The letter, obtained by News4 Investigates and signed by assistant district attorney Pamela Anderson, cites that even an evaluation of the police force by the Bureau of Justice in 2017 suggested that a homicide squad be re-created to solely focus on murders in the city.
Anderson writes that the current system of precinct detectives working together and with the cold case unit, “has not resulted in an improvement in homicide clearances.”
Anderson said both she and district attorney Glenn Funk request that metro police create the consolidated homicide unit from precinct detectives.
Currently, murders are initially handled by precinct detectives who are joined by more seasoned detectives in needed, and if no one is arrested, the cold case unit takes over the case.
But all precinct detectives, including cold case detectives, also handle other crime along with murder.
The DA’s request is for a murder squad that would solely handle homicides, as a murder squad did before it was disbanded in 2005.
News4 Investigates obtained the latest clearance rates from metro police, that show in 2004, the year before the murder squad was disbanded, the percentage of homicides cleared by arrest was at 73 percent.
In 2018, that number had dropped to 58 percent.
Deputy chief Mike Hagar agreed to speak with News4 Investigates about the letter.
“Obviously the DA’s office is saying - you need to bring back the murder squad,” said News4 Investigates.
“I don't think the district attorney fully understands the community policing concept,” Hagar said.
Hagar said their strategy to solve homicides includes monthly homicide summits that bring together all departments, including the DA’s office, to share information on all unsolved murders.
“Does (the decrease in clearance of homicides) indicate a troubling scenario?” asked News4 Investigates.
“That number, it fluctuates daily. So it's always going to be changing and fluid,” Hagar said.
Hagar said some homicides are easier to solve than others, which reflects on how many are cleared each year.
Hagar also pointed to the 2017 review of metro police and the district attorney’s office by the Bureau of Justice that found, “many aspects of metro police’s homicide investigations are outstanding.”
That study also recommended that metro police create a certain number of detectives to solely handle homicides.
When asked for comment, Steve Hayslip, district attorney spokesman, wrote, “The letter was sent to the police department in an effort to work together to make our community safer.”
As further proof of the divide between the metro departments, the letter was sent to the police chief on May 6.
Hayslip confirms that Anderson has yet to respond.
News4 investigates also wants to give further insight into the homicide clearance rates.
It is important to note that there are several categories to "clear" a homicide, including prosecutors opting not to prosecute.
There are also factors into each of these decisions that affect the numbers, including murder-suicides, in which the killer will never been arrested.