Kentucky’s largest city has seen a lot of rape cases resulting from charges filed between 2014 and 2016, and a lot of those cases are closed.
Unfortunately, for those who came forward to authorities, only half of those cases led to an arrest despite probable cause to arrest suspected rapists, according to a new report from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KYCIR).
The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) closed 51 percent of rape cases brought to their precincts using “cleared by exception” — which the FBI defines as circumstances outside the control of law enforcement. Those circumstances can include anything from the death of a person of interest in the case to the victim wanting to no longer press charges.
From 2014-2016, the LMPD had 735 rape investigations and closed 72 percent of those cases, according to KYCIR. Of that 72 percent, only 21 percent of those closed cases resulted in an arrest. The remainder of those cases were closed due to the aforementioned “cleared by exception” ruling.
“What it means is that we have done all that we can,” said LMPD spokesperson Jessie Halladay. “We don’t use that as a marker of success when we use cleared by exception.”
To be fair, Louisville isn’t alone in police departments’ failure to prosecute. ProPublica investigated 64 major metropolitan police departments and found that many rape cases are closed with no arrests being made, using the “cleared by exception” reasoning. Out of those 64 police departments, LMPD ranks 6th in clearing rape cases by using exceptional means.
Halladay says most of the time, rape cases are closed due to prosecutors not bringing them in front of a judge because a lot of juries are skeptical of rape cases, and a strong burden of proof is needed to reach a guilty plea.
LMPD data also shows the exception clause isn’t used in other serious cases near as frequently as it is in rape cases — and that some of those crimes in other categories remain open for investigation. For example, aggravated assault, homicide, and burglary are the crimes where “cleared by exception” is used, but are only used 11, 5, and 3 percent of the time, respectively.
Brandon Howard is a Grit Post contributor, auto worker, and former public radio reporter based out of Lexington, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @mrpowerhoward.