How do we replace fudged crime stats with something healthy?
Of course, the simple fix is to have ethical chiefs and sheriffs. We’ve seen we can’t always count on that, so, here’s a simple, seven-step solution for your consideration:
1.) Given what’s happened to officers who have tried to shine a light on this scourge, it’s hard for me to recommend that individual officers blow the whistle unless well-armed with an attorney and local or state whistle blower statute. Still, since this corruption comes from the top, absent an ethical Chief, the next line is middle management. They’ve got to be willing to draw a line in the sand. Exhausting that, befriend an investigative reporter who’s bound to keep her sources confidential. Extreme corruption of power calls for extreme measures.
2.) To the extent that politics is to blame for fudged crime stats, de-politicizing the chief’s position might help. Wisconsin uses a Police and Fire Commission model, where the chief is not hired and fired directly by the mayor — but the mayor can appoint the PFC members. This gives the chief some buffer from the political winds. This won’t work with elected Sheriffs.
3.) Philadelphia FOP president Bobby Eddis thinks other agencies like the Health Department, Licenses and Inspections, and the Department of Human Services should attend the CompStat strategy sessions. They all have a stake in bringing the city’s crime down and their presence might keep the sessions from becoming whipping posts for district commanders.
4.) New York’s Village Voice reporter Paul Moses recommends the NYPD release all the crime data, for all the charges, precinct by precinct — not just the numbers for the FBI’s index crimes. Then, release all audits on its crime reporting system and disclose all available information on lost-property reports (to determine whether missing goods once likely to be stolen are now listed as lost).
5.) While I can recommend a regular audit of an agency’s crime stats by an independent entity and public release of the audit results as a partial solution, the selection of the auditing agency is critical. As a white collar crime prosecutor, I once asked a potential expert accountant witness what a certain figure was and he replied, “What do you want it to be?”
6.) Let’s broaden our ethics scenario training. . I’ve yet to see a scenario that posited a corrupt chief or sheriff pressuring middle-managers to pressure officers to fudge crime stats to make the chief of sheriff and mayor look good. Maybe it would have a chilling effect on such corruption for police execs and politicians to know recruits are being taught about those pressures in the Academy. Let it also be required training for newly promoted sergeants, lieutenants, captains and precinct or district commanders.
7.) Join me in challenging the International Association of Chiefs of Police to address this issue at one of their annual Conferences. As far as I could determine, the group never has.