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NYPD Cops Fudged Crime Stats in Compstat Model Program Now Used in 100s of US Cities

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crossposted from opednews.com

There's something very big here. If you look at the repercussions, this stats program does for police what the Leave No Child Behind program for schools does to teachers-- encourages them to shape the data. In this case, it may be putting us all at risk by fudging crime stats.

A new survey of over 100 retired NYPD captains and senior officers found that they believed that statistics were manipulated to portray lower crime rates for the compsat program that calculates crime rates..

The survey suggests that police have distorted crime reporting, dropping value of stolen goods so the theft is categorized as misdemeanor instead of felony. They drop categorization of crimes from felony to misdemeanor if suspects can't be found.

One element of the Compstat program is the theory that aggressive arrests for the smallest crimes, with a minimum of 24 hours spent in jail, lead to discouraging of repeat offenses.

Compstat, originally adopted by Rudy Giuliani's first police chief, William J. Bratton, is now in use by hundreds of police departments all over the US and the world, including LA, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, Baltimore and Vancouver. Many former NYPD officers now operate as consultants to those cities, helping them run the Compstat program.

The survey raises the question as to whether the use of this system literally encourages police and district attorneys to manipulate crime reporting.

The NY Times, in , Retired Officers Raise Questions on Crime Data, reported,

In interviews with the criminologists, other retired senior officers cited examples of what the researchers believe was a periodic practice among some precinct commanders and supervisors: checking eBay, other Web sites, catalogs or other sources to find prices for items that had been reported stolen that were lower than the value provided by the crime victim. They would then use the lower values to reduce reported grand larcenies -- felony thefts valued at more than $1,000, which are recorded as index crimes under CompStat -- to misdemeanors, which are not, the researchers said.

Others also said that precinct commanders or aides they dispatched sometimes went to crime scenes to persuade victims not to file complaints or to urge them to change their accounts in ways that could result in the downgrading of offenses to lesser crimes, the researchers said.

"Those people in the CompStat era felt enormous pressure to downgrade index crime, which determines the crime rate, and at the same time they felt less pressure to maintain the integrity of the crime statistics," said John A. Eterno, one of the researchers and a retired New York City police captain."

And an article in the NY Post, titled, NYPD stats were captain cooked reports:

But a growing chorus of complaints -- including those from Post interviews with dozens of officers and a new survey of retired captains -- allege that the pressure of CompStat leads precinct bosses to downgrade major crimes to minor offenses.

The evidence includes:

* A new survey of 491 retired captains that found that respondents who worked in the CompStat era felt greater pressure from management to doctor major crimes.

* The NYPD Staten Island Evidence Collection Team's fingerprinting of burglary scenes but not entering its findings if cops did not issue the victims a police report. The burglaries would then not appear on CompStat.

* Sergeants' different attitude during roll call once CompStat began. Before, they would instruct officers to report all crimes. When CompStat came aboard, that speech disappeared.

* Officers who purposely made it difficult for victims to file complaints. Cops responding to burglaries would ask for serial numbers and receipts for lost items and not file their reports until those had been produced.

* Cops who turned felony assaults into misdemeanor assaults if suspects couldn't be identified.

* A sergeant who recorded an iPod stolen during an assault as lost property. The same cop recategorized burglaries down to the level of criminal trespass.

This survey raises questions on the reliability and trustworthiness of all the Compstat programs. Some claim that Compstat has directly led to a decrease in crime. But some cities which use Compstat have horrible crime rates, like Philadelphia, with a huge murder rate. The NY Times, in a 2007 article, reported,

the results in cities that have adopted the Compstat model have been mixed: Philadelphia is "in the grip of a murder wave," Seattle's homicide decline "has flattened out," and the New Orleans police remains as ineffective as it was before Hurricane Katrina. The same dismal trend, he said, goes for Minneapolis, Louisville, Boston and Baltimore.

Mr. Karmen said that it can be hard to evaluate Compstat for a key reason. If crime rates go down, its proponents credit the program. If crime doesn't go down, the program's proponents say the program's six core elements - a clear mission, internal accountability, geographical organization of operational command, organizational flexibility, a reliance on data and innovative problem-solving tactics - were not faithfully followed. Mr. Karmen said he did not rule out the latter explanation: "Implementing Compstat could be a matter of degree, and some departments just don't get it."

Yet, he said, "None of the other cities have experienced anything like New York's remarkable improvement in public safety." So either those other cities all failed to follow Compstat fully, or Compstat, he said, "is not the entire reason why crime went down."

The NY Post also added,

NYPD officials insist the pressure has never been an excuse to fudge the numbers and department spokesman Paul Browne rejected Arniotes' "rationalizing" saying: "Hundreds of captains do their job honestly, without resorting to dishonesty of any kind."

Commissioner Ray Kelly's administration has meted out punishment in 11 number-fudging cases, four of which involved commanding officers, said Browne, who also questioned the study's methodology.

We've seen how, in education, the "Leave No Child Behind" program has led to teaching policies that aim towards enabling children to score well on Leave No Child Behind program assessments rather than educating them for success as adults. This survey raises the concern that the Compstat program may be putting our nation's cities at risk because of the perceived or real pressure to manipulate the reporting and characterization of crimes. Worse, the use of 24 hour imprisonment of arrested but not tried and convicted suspects appears to be a gross abuse of the justice system which creates a police state nightmare.

Giuliani encouraged George W. Bush to appoint his former police commissioner Bernard Kerik, now a convicted criminal, to be head of Homeland Security. And Giuliani, as a presidential candidate, promised to institute Compstat on a national basis, presumably including the 24 hour arrest policy.

Compstat needs much greater scrutiny and review. It shows great potential to be abused in ways that endanger both the public and justice.