What To Know Today

Police solved more murders than ever in 2020 — but even more went unsolved amid a homicide spike. That’s according to an analysis of the most recently available FBI data, which shows that 2020 continued a downtrend from the early 1980s, when police cleared about 70 percent of homicides nationwide. A full analysis from The Marshall Project parses the dataset and what it tells us about police failures to solve murder cases, the effects on community trust and ability to stop violence, and what we even mean when we talk about “clearing” a case — which turns out to have a number of important caveats. “Why are police only solving 1 in 2 murders?” the outlet asks. “Many scholars and police department officials say murders are becoming more difficult to investigate, while some victims’ families say police spend too much energy on things other than solving crimes.” From the Trace: In 2019, we reported on how most shooters go free in Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, even as police make nonstop drug arrests. 

Missouri police chiefs support a suit challenging the state’s Second Amendment sanctuary law. Nearly 60 members of the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association have contributed to legal briefs and affidavits arguing that some of the wording of the Second Amendment Preservation Act “has inadvertently caused confusion and raised a number of questions that hinder law enforcement’s ability to defend and protect Missouri citizens.” The groups are seeking permission to join a friend of the court brief in a suit brought by the city of Arnold last week, which said in part that the law has hampered criminal investigations. The state law essentially prohibits Missouri police from enforcing federal gun restrictions and, critically, unlike a slew of largely symbolic laws other states have passed, allows the state to fine police agencies $50,000 if their officers violate the statute. As The Trace reported in August, some experts said the legislation’s language is so vague that it could prevent enforcement of federal background check laws and statutes that disarm domestic abusers. Local law enforcement officers say the law has already hindered investigations.

Covid deaths pushed line-of-duty officer fatalities to the highest level in decades last year. Of 458 officers who died in 2021, 301 died of the illness, while 62 died as a result of firearm injuries excluding suicide, according to preliminary year-end data published by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The gun death figure was a 38 percent increase over the 45 that occurred in 2020. The report found that ambush-style attacks accounted for 19 of the gun deaths.

Memorializing the child victims of gun violence. In 2020, more than 2,200 children lost their lives in shootings, according to the latest CDC data, the highest rate in two decades. We won’t know what the CDC recorded in 2021 until much later this year, but publicly available Gun Violence Archive information shows the absolute toll on children got even worse. To remember the victims, The Washington Post wrote about a broadly representative sample of 13 of the kids killed last year from various ages and backgrounds.

Data Point

Nearly 9 out of 10 — the number of Black people now listed on a Washington, D.C., police department’s gang database for entries with race listed. By comparison, Black people make up just 46 percent of the city’s population. Some residents and leaders have expressed alarm about the secretive database that has tripled in size in eight years. [The Intercept]