Inspector General LAPD LASD Law Enforcement

Closing Unsolved Homicide Cases in LA, Outside Investigations of Cops’ Use of Force, “Tactical Retreat,” and “Suicide-by-Cop”


As part of the Los Angeles News Group’s cluster of investigative stories about the magnitude of unsolved homicides in Los Angeles, the LA Daily News’ Mike Reicher reveals an alarming classification trend in LAPD homicide records.

Between 2000-2010, 596 unsolved homicides—11.5% of the total number of homicides recorded, and a large portion of which came from the Valley Bureau—were classified as “cleared other,” a category for “solved” cases in which no suspects were arrested, and no charges were filed. LA’s “cleared other” homicide cases were often cleared on technicalities, or when the DA’s office decided not to prosecute.

The national average is 4.9% for the classification. The LA County Sheriff’s Department does not clear a homicide unless a suspect is charged.

Here are some clips from Reicher’s story:

The LAPD cleared some of these cases because the D.A. declined to prosecute, but when asked for the reason each case was cleared, police officials did not respond. The data excludes fatal shootings by officers.

Out of all homicides for which the LAPD provided the Los Angeles News Group a case status, 11.5 percent fell into this “cleared other” category. The national average was 4.9 percent, according to FBI statistics from 2011 through 2013, the only published years. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department didn’t classify any cases this way.

When agencies voluntarily report their crime-solving statistics to the FBI, they are supposed to only count a crime solved, or “cleared,” if they make an arrest, or if they have identified an offender and have enough evidence for an arrest but can’t for a reason outside their control. The classic example is a murder-suicide, in which the suspect is dead.

LAPD officials say they follow FBI guidelines when clearing cases. But others outside the agency say they are interpreting the FBI standards incorrectly.

“They should not let the prosecutors dictate if they solve a case,” said Cassia Spohn, professor and director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. “It really confuses the role of the police and the prosecutor.”

The LAPD Detective Operations Manual says that clearing a case, by arrest or by other methods, “means that the detective has solved the crime and has taken all possible, appropriate action against at least one suspect.”

The Sheriff’s Department keeps cases open unless someone is actually prosecuted, said Lt. Mike Rosson of the Homicide Bureau. He said his department strictly follows the FBI rules.

“If we can’t give a family closure through prosecution, why would we want to call it solved?” Rosson said.


In the wake of non-indictments for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, cries for independent investigations into killings by officers have escalated.

An LA Times editorial says establishing independent investigations may not be the straightforward solution proponents expect.

When a questionable use of deadly force occurs, citizens want to know whether the officer could have done something to change the fatal outcome, whether the officer feared for their life, whether the officer was racist, and whether he or she could have received better training.

The editorial points out that investigations aim to answer just three things: whether the officer committed a crime, whether the officer’s actions violated department policy, and whether those policies are unjust—not the more simplistic notion of whether the killing was “good or bad.”

Here’s a clip:

The police and the policed alike too often view the results of an internal or grand jury investigation in a binary way, conflating what ought to be distinct questions into one: Was the killing “good” or “bad”? That leaves people to conclude, in the event of a decision not to indict, as in the Brown and Garner cases, that the justice system or society as a whole has adjudged the killing to be justified.

The various layers of investigation are meant, instead, to ask at least three separate questions: (1) Did the officer commit a crime? (2) Did the officer violate policy? (3) Is the policy unjust or otherwise unsound?

Those fairly dry questions aren’t necessarily the ones that people ask after a police shooting. They want to know whether the officer who shot reasonably believed he was in danger; whether he was properly trained to defuse such a situation; whether he is racist, and is part of a racist system of law enforcement and justice. But any investigation, whether internal or independent, will have trouble with such subjective questions.

Prosecutors, grand juries, judges and trial juries determine whether an officer committed a crime, not whether a deadly encounter was handled properly from beginning to end. But investigations must tell us more than whether an officer is a callous murderer…

Read on.


A new police training technique called “tactical retreat” has been cropping up in law enforcement agencies’ reevaluations of training approaches.

In this training method, officers are instructed to withdraw from certain suspects or situations until reinforcements arrive.

Supporters of this idea say tactical retreat could save lives on both sides of the badge. Both St. Louis city and county police chiefs are considering this approach as they analyze their current policies for possible revision. But some critics say tactical retreat could give a suspect the upper hand, potentially making the situation even more dangerous.

Law enforcement leaders in other jurisdictions, like Richmond, California, are seeing fewer officer-involved fatalities after implementing scenario-based training like tactical retreat.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Christine Byers has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Had [Darren] Wilson been coached in tactical retreat, Stoughton said, he instead might have stepped on the gas to drive away from the encounter, and kept Brown in sight while waiting for backup.

Wilson “could have been trained to do something different to allow him to apprehend Michael Brown without putting himself in a situation that made him feel deadly force was the only safe response,” Stoughton explained. “Train police officers to avoid putting themselves in danger, and you will see them use less force to get themselves out of danger.

“That’s good for everybody.”

Chiefs of the St. Louis and St. Louis County police have said in recent interviews they are reviewing training with the principles of tactical retreat in mind.

But it’s a delicate dance, warned Sam Dotson, the city chief.

“Society has to realize that we pay police officers to keep us safe. And if every criminal knows, ‘If I confront an officer, they will take four steps back, that’s my escape route,’ then that becomes the new norm.”

Tactical retreat can be a hard sell to police traditionally trained to subdue an adversary — and to keep pouring on force until that is accomplished. Most departments have policies that provide discipline for cowardice.

Gabe Crocker, president of the St. Louis County Police Association, called the tactical retreat concept “cowardice retreat,” and complained that it is “shameful” to consider.

“Why should we have to change law enforcement nationwide to make exceptions for this violent few when what we should be doing is making it harder for this violent few to have such a powerful lobby on their side?” Crocker asked. “Police officers are trying to uphold the laws of society and protect people. Instead, people are labeling us as aggressive and people who need more training.”

A misjudgment with tactical retreat could get an officer killed, said David Klinger, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who urges caution in the way it’s used.

“If you retreat, you’re giving the guy an opportunity to win the fight, and you have to be bold,” said Klinger, a former Los Angeles officer. “However, if you have the advantage of horsepower, you should break away.


LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante examined 35 cases of “suicide-by-cop” in a 30-month span, and presented his findings to the Los Angeles Police Commission. Bustamante identified nine common indications that a person has used a police officer to help them commit suicide (for instance: when a person tells officers they have a gun when they actually do not).

Bustamante calls on the LAPD to go over their policies regarding these kinds of encounters with potentially suicidal people and the mentally ill, to determine whether there are some ways to avoid tragic outcomes.

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the Bustamante’s report. Here’s a clip:

Most incidents do not include suicide notes or people yelling for officers to shoot them, so its impossible to determine how many officer involved shootings are in fact suicides.

The inspector general urged the LAPD to review its policies regarding suicide by cop to determine if there are ways to avoid such scenarios. He also identified six recurrent features in the incidents:

The subject calls 911 or takes some other form of action to prompt an encounter with police officers;

The subject does not attempt to leave the scene, but instead actively seeks confrontation with officers;

The subject makes verbal threats to kill officers and/or tells officers to shoot him;

A subject who is not, in fact, armed with a firearm verbally indicates that he has a gun;

The subject brandishes or simulates a weapon in a manner that appears to threaten officers with death or serious injury; and,

When officers do not initially resort to the use of force, the subject does not comply with verbal commands and instead escalates the apparent threat until such time as force is used against him.


  • This is classic George Gascón!

    At LAPD he redefined case closures and dropped the Crime rates at LAPD. Mesa AZ was so impressed they hired him as Chief and guess what? Closures improved and crime dropped. With Heather Fong’s retirement a few years ago, he took her job as San Francisco police chief and closures improved and crime rates dropped. He then moved on to DA.

    Classic cooking of the books! Unfortunately, neither L.A., Mesa or San Francisco are as safe as they report.

    Crime in those cities is fraudulently reduced.

    LASD has always done it right.

  • Growing up in the community I served, being called racist names by guys and families of guys I grew up playing ball with who knew better, pointed out to me very early who the true racists were in the community and they weren’t those of us patrolling it. You social justice pariah’s never go there though and the racism in these minority areas are simply a curve ball to get people to look away from the criminal behavior too many of them engage in that they blame on factors having nothing to do with cops but everything to do with the left keeping Blacks on the plantation depending on them for everything they need. Sad but true Celeste. All my Black friends in the burbs do quite well but in the slums of the major cities across the nation controlled by your party for decades how are things working out for them?

  • @Surefire: Why would anyone call you racist?, from your “boyhood friends” to “bloggers”.

    Obviously they aren’t aware that you have “Black” friends in the burbs. Nice.

  • “Tactical Retreat,” really? Often times we are the last line of defense. Believe me the majority of the public will not like it if they see their Police Officers “retreating” from the threat. Have you never heard the saying “give’m an inch and they’ll take a mile.” The Criminal Thug mentality will only learn to “force your hand,” as they are doing already. The only way to keep some sort of control is to be able to justify your actions for public and your own safety. Hundreds of thousands Police Officers do their job daily “without” a “tactical retreat,” but unfortunately once in a while an over zealous criminal forces you to take it to the next level. It’s part of keeping control.

  • This is all to common inside the jails. Deputies are being taught this concept at the academy and it shows in lack of confidence and decision making when they arrive in the jails. Due to this situation trainees in patrol are hesitant and the recalcitrant mentality (calling for a supervisor in custody) is in full force. They are calling for supervisors in patrol to respond to their uncooperative contact, instead of handling it. I pray someone doesn’t get seriously hurt in patrol due to the damage created by the upper brass mentality of custody instilled into these new deputies.

  • Having been a proponent of civil rights for decades, I am puzzled by the question “Is the cop a racist?” as having relevancy in general shooting analyses. Although we certainly do not want racist cops, it is not a question relevant to the appropriateness of a shooting (unless of course race played into the shooting). Even if a cop is racist, the question as to the appropriateness of the shooting still rests on the facts of the shooting, not on the cop’s personal beliefs. If I shoot a Democrat, is it relevant that I am Republican? It is only relevant if I shot him because he is Democrat. What is relevant are the facts of the shooting. Was it legal? Was it in policy (which answers one of the questions about whether the cop was in fear for his -or others- lives)? As for the training question, the answer is always “yes.” We can always use more training. A better question would be “How much training did the cop receive? and “Was this level of training insufficient in preparing the cop for this situation?” The Times editorial board might want to add this question to the citizenry, “Would I be willing to pay more taxes to send more cops to more training and when is the amount of training considered enough?” The answer is “no” and “never”

  • @Sure Fire: Jason Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, recently echoed your same thoughts. For all our liberal friends…..Jason Riley is Black.

  • Tweet from the Dropkick Murphys after Scott Walker used Shipping Up From Boston as a walk up song:

    @ScottWalker @GovWalker please stop using our music in any way…we literally hate you !!!
    Love, Dropkick Murphys

  • Thank god the convicted Deps are still out. My heart goes out to them. Again, a bunch of individuals choose to condemn these people. At one time I wanted to leave this liberal State and work NYPD. 30 years later, I regret I didn’t. A reminder to all those line personnel blogging on here, the idiots that claim to be current or former management were/are part of the problem. Being a line person for 30 years, you get a different perspective in regards to management. You see all the backstabbing, camp jumping, and all the lies. Note to line folks, this is not the LASD I once, knew. We are in no way family. Management has made sure of this. Don’t be afraid to stand up to them. They are only men/women who probably have less experience than the average FTO.

  • Didn’t they do that tactical retreat bit when the grand jury decision was rendered in Ferguson, Mo? Lets ask all the business owners how they feel about that “tactic”….

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