For the second consecutive year, Columbus suffered through an all-time record of homicides.
Few people are directly affected by this continuous carnage.
Many others – friends, relatives, neighbors are also affected, but differently. So are our homicide detectives.
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Many of us may assume that homicide cases are quickly solved and the perpetrator brought to justice.
Depending on age, we have been conditioned by radio sleuths (“The Shadow Knows”) or/and television detectives and lawyers (“Dragnet,” “Perry Mason,” “NCIS”). All is made well within an hour of airtime, requiring no paperwork.
Interesting, but unrealistic.
Police detective Terry Kelley is a nine-year veteran of the homicide squad. His biggest problem is his high case load.
Cases that require extra effort have to be set aside when another homicide occurs.
The FBI recommends each detective handle five cases per year. Kelly and other detectives handle up to nine.
Cases differ in complexity, and many have challenges unseen by citizens.
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One challenge is the death notification.
Each differs, but in each case, a loved one in irredeemably and irrevocably gone. How would we respond to being notified of a violent death?
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This case load creates other issues including a workweek of 60-70 hours, paucity of family time, answering a cell phone at all hours, autopsies, meetings with coroner, prosecutors, follow-up interviews, progress reports to next of kin.
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Why does Kelley perform such duty?
“I do this job to make a difference,” he told me. Solved cases make a huge difference.
Police Commander Robert Strausbaugh serves as the head of the major crimes bureau. This includes squads for homicide, cold cases, felony assault, robbery, the gun unit, and the task force officers.
Such responsibility would tax the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job.
But Strausbaugh is more than equal to the task.
As a former U.S. Marine, he realizes the importance of his current missions. He laments the lack of opportunity for follow-up on homicide cases — as another case always arises.
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He’s taken steps to increase efficiency.
He has six detective teams of five each, all assigned to the daylight shift. This makes meetings with the coroner, prosecutors, etc. easier. Teams are on standby for cases occurring beyond duty hours.
The commander has instituted in-service training to include employee assistance counseling, The Peer Assistance Team, the department chaplain, outside counselor for class on post-traumatic stress disorder for first responders. It all helps — a great deal.
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Detectives work diligently to put together solid investigation to ensure killers go to prison. Assistance from the public would be of great value in this regard.
Columbus ended 2021 with 204 homicides.
Retired Columbus Division of Police Sgt. Stephen Walter is a lifetime resident of Columbus and Grove City. He is also a United States Marine Corps Reserve retiree.