Cleveland police broke departmental rules and sidestepped national law enforcement standards when they prematurely cleared rape cases without sex-crimes detectives ever identifying the suspects, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A Plain Dealer analysis found that police improperly cleared at least 52 rape cases in 2006 and 2007, giving the impression they had solved more crimes than they had. In reality, unknown assailants who abducted victims from city streets or bus stops and held them hostage while they raped them are not being pursued.
That leaves them free to attack other victims. The FBI crime-reporting standards, which are similar to Cleveland's own police procedures, call for detectives to keep sexual-assault cases open until a suspect is identified. The federal rules say that to close a case without an arrest — a classification known as “exceptional clearance,” meeting several criteria. Acceptable reasons for exceptionally clearing a case range from a suspect's death to a victim who chooses not to pursue prosecution. In Cleveland, police are using those justifications without first identifying a suspect. And the city is counting the improperly cleared cases toward the police department's overall clearance rate, a widely recognized barometer of a law enforcement agency's performance. Most commonly in Cleveland, cases die when detectives declare victims “uncooperative,” when they don't answer phone calls or show up to the department's downtown offices for interviews. According to the newspaper's analysis of data provided by the city, about 56 percent of all rape investigations during the two years in question have been cleared — meaning there was an arrest, the crime was proven unfounded, the case was turned over to another agency or it was labeled an exceptional clearance. The analysis showed that in the two years, sex-crimes detectives cleared nearly 2 1/2 times as many cases by exception as they did by arrest. At least 16 percent of exceptionally cleared cases examined by the Plain Dealer were classified as such in violation of the department's own policy.