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Report: Police in Dallas, Arlington, Elsewhere Are Boosting Rape Clearance Stats Without Making Arrests

An "exceptional clearance" designation, which is supposed to be used only in rare cases, is helping PDs make their numbers look better.
By Shawn Shinneman |

Police departments in Dallas and Arlington, along with dozens of others across the country, are using a special kind of clearance for rape cases to make it appear as if they’re better at solving the crimes than they actually are, according to an investigation by ProPublica, Reveal, and Newsy.

About 15 percent of the rape cases cleared by the Dallas Police Department from 2014 to 2016 were “exceptionally cleared,” a designation that is supposed to be used sparingly—when “police have enough evidence to make an arrest and know who and where the suspect is, but can’t make an arrest for reasons outside their control,” according to the report. During the same time period, 41 percent of DPD rape cases resulted in arrest (sixth-best among the 64 police agencies that provided data).

The 15-percent exceptional clearance rate actually puts DPD in the lower third of the 64 police agencies that responded to requests for data. In Arlington, 20 percent of rape cases were exceptionally cleared while 21 percent ended in arrests. Austin exceptionally cleared 33 percent while making arrests in 17 percent. Meanwhile, Fort Worth exceptionally cleared just 4 percent of cases while making arrests in 23 percent.

The worst of the worst is Wichita PD in Kansas, where arrests were made in just seven percent of the cases, while an astounding 63 percent resulted in exceptional clearance.

Of the departments that didn’t respond to requests for the exceptional clearance data, San Antonio PD sticks out. FBI data shows they have an overall clearance rate of just 13 percent in these cases—and without a response, it’s unknown what percentage of those are actual arrests.

I’ve asked for comment from Dallas and Arlington, and I’ll update here if I hear back. In the meantime, click around the data yourself here, and read the full report here.

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