Embarrassing Cases Highlight Low S.F. Homicide Clearance Rate


In San Francisco’s Cadaver Van Case, police waited eight days before looking inside a van, even though their cadaver dogs signaled it might contain something dead. By the time police discovered the body inside, the Washington Post reports, the van’s owners had more than a week’s head start on a pursuit that turned out to be not all that hot. The fugitives were apprehended in Mexico by the marketing director of a San Diego pest control company. In another case, French detectives are asking to “assist” the department in its controversial probe into the death of Hugues de la Plaza. Detectives surmised that de la Plaza, a French citizen, stabbed himself to death three times in the chest, then washed and hid the knife somewhere in his apartment. Almost a year later, the case is still not listed as a homicide, and key forensic work remains undone.

Ross Mirkarimi, who chairs the public safety committee of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, said the two cases underscore weaknesses in a police force plagued by poor leadership and inadequate resources. He said the homicide closure rate appears to be extremely low but that precise figures are impossible to obtain from a balkanized department that in some cases keeps records on paper.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/24/AR2008052400855.html

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