Posted by Edmond Geary on 01-10-2011
Public officials always tout their programs as successes. But sometimes that success is make believe. When public officials are in charge of reporting the program’s results, the reporting merits watching.
The New York Police Department is now suspected of manipulating their crime statistics to make the results appear to show lower crime. Compstat is a computerized mapping system that tracks criminal patterns credited with reducing major crimes. But current and former officers have voiced concerns that the program has created intense pressure to reduce crime each year to reduce crime each year and has led some supervisors to misclassify major crimes.
A year ago, an academic survey that included more than 100 retired police officers who were captains and higher-ranking reported being aware of ethically inappropriate changes to crime statistics in the major categories of felonies measured by CompStat. An investigation is underway by the Internal Affairs Bureau that crime complaints in the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn were intentionally downgraded to make the number of major crimes appear lower.
Now the police commissioner has appointed a panel to look into the integrity of the department’s internal crime-reporting system. Commissioner Raymond Kelly has announced the creation of the Crime Reporting Review Committee and said the committee would have broad access to the people and documents to review the Police Department records, tracks, and audits its crime numbers. He explained the panel was formed, not only to maintain the confidence of the public but because reliable crime statistics are necessary for effective planning and evaluation of crime-reduction strategies.
Of course, Kelly has always downplayed criticism of the program. He said that already the police department’s Quality Assurance Division has been monitoring crime reports. In reviewing 50,000 arrest reports a year, it found only a 1.5 per cent miscalculation rate.
The chief spokesman for the department, Paul Brown, explained the panel was created because there was a “lot of false or unfair accusations against the Police Department.” The panel will have 3-6 months to complete its study. It is composed of three members, all of whom have worked in the United States Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York. They are David Kelley, who was United States Attorney in that office from 2003 to 2005, Sharon McCarthy who was special counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo when he was attorney general of the State of New York, and Robert Morvillo, a noted criminal defense lawyer who may be remembered for defending Martha Stewart.
Brown said the department had 100 people assigned to auditing, who routinely audit each precinct each year, examining at least 600 cases in each station house every 12 months.
Peter Vallone, chairman of the New York City Council public safety committee, has been gathering evidence for months to prepare for his own hearing on the issue. He says he will now wait until the panel has delivered its conclusions. He asserts his own belief that “the statistics were in fact being manipulated.” He says he has spoken to many current and former police officers who have corroborated that fact but who have refused to go on the record.
In 2005, Mark Pomerantz as chairman of the mayoral commission created to monitor the Police Department’s project to root out corruption told the City Council’s public safety committee that the commission had sought to review reports of fraudulent claims for police overtime and charges of sexual misconduct and domestic violence by police officers, but was stymied by the department’s failure to provide information.