DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - A published report says dozens of suspected killers, rapists and others who were arrested by Detroit police over the past four years have been released because of a backlog of unsigned warrants.
Among the unsigned warrants at the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office are 21 for murder, including one going back to 2010, according to a report in the Detroit News. The newspaper says there are 105 for sexual assault and 126 for child abuse.
In most cases, police were forced to release the suspects, since the law requires that they can't be held beyond 72 hours without being arraigned.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says many of the releases are a result of too few employees in her office. She says the office has "lost half of our staff and it is no surprise that we are not able to fulfill our mandated functions with such drastic staff reductions."
"It certainly is not surprising that this has impacted our ability to review and charge warrant requests presented to us," Worthy said, although — in an interview with WWJ Tuesday — she clarified that the backlog is only for "not in custody" warrants.
There is a difference, she said.
"There is no backlog for in custody warrants — those are the ones that are prioritized," Worthy said. "In custody warrants are warrants for charges that are brought over when the person's jail; not in custody warrants are warrants that are brought over by police when the person is not in custody."
Worthy said those who aren't in custody are that way because they come with incomplete investigations, or because the office couldn't charge the person within the allotted time frame.
When that's the case, Worthy said, they work their hardest to make sure the suspect isn't out for too long.
Maria Miller, Worthy's spokeswoman, says the prosecutor's office has 134 staff attorneys, having lost more than 90 this year due to budget cuts. In 2010, the prosecutor's warrants division had eight full-time attorneys; there are now five full-time attorneys.
Talking to WWJ Newsradio 950 on Tuesday, however, She said there's only a backlog for "not in custody" warrants:
Detroit Police Chief James Craig says he sympathizes with issues at the prosecutor's office, but he has staffing challenges of his own.
"I can't and won't say I don't have enough officers to do the job," Craig said. "I don't have the luxury of saying that. I have fewer officers today than when I got started, but I can't say, 'We don't have enough people.' That's not an option."
Meanwhile, Craig says, all his officers can do is continue to arrest suspects.
"Once we arrest them and submit a warrant request, it's out of our hands," he said.
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