In an email, City Pulse (Lansing, Mich.) publisher Berl Schwartz explains how a story about unsolved homicides turned into a feature about the Lansing Police Department’s lack of cold case organization. As a result of the article, Lansing’s mayor has proposed hiring a new cold-case detective.
Last month, City Pulse published a story on how the Lansing Police Department couldn’t produce a list of unsolved murders since 2000. Twelve days later, when Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero unveiled his proposed budget, it included $100,000 for a new police captain to be devoted to cold cases.
“After reading your article and talking to the chief and the captains, I concluded that
we weren’t doing enough,” Bernero said.
The story, which appeared March 13, told how City Pulse staffer Rich Tupica and freelancer Steve Miller conceived of a story on cold-case homicides that they hoped would bring about new leads or witnesses.
Instead of cooperating, however, police officials rebuffed them. One sergeant said,
“We have a list somewhere, I really don’t have time to help you on it. I don’t even
know where the list is.”
City Pulse then submitted a FOIA request. The City Attorney’s Office responded
that it would cost $613 to compile the information. After City Pulse appealed on the
grounds that it would be a public service, the price was reduced to $306.50.
That’s when it shifted to a story about trying to get a story. The result, “Buried Cases: The story of how the Lansing Police Department buries its cold cases and missing-persons files,” appeared during Sunshine Week, appropriately enough.