County prosecutor reflects on end to County Metro Homicide Unit

NOW: County prosecutor reflects on end to County Metro Homicide Unit

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter says he rejected a proposal to save the County Metro Homicide Unit, to maintain its objectivity. But he worries the end to the agreement could lead to detectives being out of practice.

The St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit is no longer taking on new cases, as of Oct. 15. The South Bend Police Department decided to withdraw from CMHU, ending a nearly 30-year partnership, because of staffing shortages.

The City of South Bend offered an alternative to ending the unit, where the city would fully fund positions on CMHU that the prosecutor’s office would fill. Prosecutor Cotter rejected the idea, telling ABC57 he wants investigations, and his evaluation of each case, to be as objective as possible.

“I think it’s important that there will be some separation between the two so that I can ensure that the investigation is appropriate and that it fits,” Cotter said. “And you can kind of put the thumb on the scale if I had all the investigators”

Cotter worries an unintended consequence of ending the CMHU may be detectives getting out-of-practice on homicide investigations. Under the county partnership, officers from multiple departments were able to be regularly involved in homicide investigations even if their city didn't see a high amount of crime. Because CMHU is ending, departments could end up in a situation down the line where their detectives have to investigate a murder, after a year or more of being out of practice. “The issue is going to be expertise,” Cotter said. “If you only do something once a year it’s hard to stay sharp.”

Prosecutor Cotter says even though CMHU won’t dissolve until next year, it needs the next two and a half months to get old case files and evidence containers to each department.

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