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Shortage of homicide detectives felt as EBR surpasses homicide record

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BATON ROUGE- As East Baton Rouge Parish grapples with one of the worst years for homicides in the parish's history, there's a shortage of homicide detectives at the Baton Rouge Police Department.

According to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office, there have been 118 homicides since January 1, 2017 to date. That number includes homicides that have been classified as justifiable and breaks records for the parish, according to the coroner.

In the city limits of Baton Rouge, there have been 92 homicides. That number also includes some that are justifiable.

With nearly half of them unsolved, the need for more homicide detectives is paramount. Currently, Baton Rouge Police has room for 12 homicide detectives, and that's what the department typically has during a normal year. With this being a year with elevated numbers, the department is short three detectives, and that's putting a big strain on the department.

"When a homicide detective gets that case, they want to follow up those leads as fast as you can," Interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam said. "Those officers tend to work overtime, and we've had detectives that may work 48 hours straight and trying to follow up on leads, because after those 48 hours the case gets cold."

In the city limits of Baton Rouge, there is a 60 percent clearance rate this year. Nationally, the clearance rate is about one third.

"The fact that we are so short handed and these homicide detectives have been able to maintain a clearance rate at or above the national average is a tremendous compliment to them," Dunnam said.

Currently, there's a recruiting push to hire more than 60 open positions at Baton Rouge Police. Filling specialized divisions isn't an easy task. Working in the homicide division requires long hours, being on call and away from family. It's a job that requires passion.

"It used to be a very prestigious position," Dunnam said. "Officers would fight for those positions. With the work load and case load that they have, it's more difficult."

The homicide detectives at Baton Rouge Police currently work cases that range from homicides to overdoses. They are required to go out to all of the scenes.

"Their case load is high," Dunnam said. "They are stretched thin."

In January, a recruiting push will take place with 35 people entering the police academy. The Baton Rouge Police Department hopes that will fill many of the open positions.

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