Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Immunity Granted, Immunity Denied

Our book The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation is available for preorder

New York Times article about NYPD not taking crime reports supports our research

Our most recent publication in The Village Voice "NYPD's Crime Stat Manipulation A Factor in Recent Corruption Scandals"

New York Times Stop and Frisk article

Immunity Granted, Immunity Denied

By Eli B. Silverman and John A. Eterno

The decision of the Bronx District Attorney to grant immunity to a PBA official in exchange for his testimony regarding allegations of NYPD ticket fixing, while laudable, highlights a key weakness in a far more significant, yet more subdued inquiry.

The muted inquiry was first announced in January when the Police Commissioner announced the appointment of a three person committee of former federal prosecutors to look into the NYPD’s crime reporting system. Link to NY Times article

This belated appointment followed years of documented reports and allegations of manipulation of crime statistics. These charges can be, of course, far more consequential than reports of ticket fixing. The manipulation of crime reports by the NYPD likely involves nearly every precinct. It involves countless victims being victimized again as police fail to properly report allegations; crimes that could have been prevented continue; detectives denied accurate information, intelligence lost as crime reports are altered. The evidence of tampering with reports is overwhelming – both the PBA and SBA coming forward and advising of the practice; our peer reviewed research; victims and groups representing victims of sex crimes sending up alarms; a retired detective’s warning; criminal trespass complaints mounting, summonses and stop and frisk reports skyrocketing in a supposed time of little crime; audiotapes of NYPD officers by whistleblowers clearly showing the practice; hospital data for firearms injuries showing ever increasing numbers, and much more.

Yet, surprise of all surprises, this new Commissioner-appointed crime reporting committee was not bestowed with any authority to grant immunity to any NYPD personnel for their testimony. As seen in the ticket fixing scandal, this is a key weapon in fighting such abuse of authority by police. Absent such authority, the chances of obtaining straight forward police testimony ranks between zero and nil. The blue wall of silence can be impenetrable unless inquiries are given appropriate power. Should not this committee (which the commissioner said was to report within 3 to 6 months) be outfitted with the necessary tools?
This convenient slight of hand relegates significant reform to the trash bin of past headlines.

Eli B, Silverman, is Professor Emeritus, John Jay College and author, NYPD Battles Crime.
John A. Eterno is Associate Dean of Criminal Justice, Molloy College and a retired NYPD Captain.


  1. Sorry, I meant to say 'what cost-cutting methods were being used' and compare them, etc.

  2. Remember my review of your earlier book criticizing COMPSTAT? I don't know if you've seen this from me recently. I'm so glad you recognize police crime/criminality counting generally and COMPSTAT can't be done:

    I wrote the following blog in response to an extended segment of "This American Life" indicating massive underreporting of crimes and false public order arrests to meet quotas in Brooklyn, and probably throughout NYPD. The link to this week's "right to remain silent" segment is . The transcript is at . So much for the face validity of crime and criminality statistics.


    From: Pepinsky, Harold E.
    Sent: Saturday, October 22, 2011 8:37 PM
    To: Pepinsky, Harold E.
    Subject: COMPSTAT news

    Hal Pepinsky,,
    October 22, 2011
    Today on “This American Life,” most of the program was about how from
    roll call to the very top of the NYPD, since its inception in 1994,
    the much touted crime reporting system known as COMPSTAT is bogus.
    The TAL segment is essentially an interview with former officer Adrian
    Schoolcraft and playing of clips of the recordings he made from when
    he was first ordered at roll call to make numbers on summonses to how
    senior commanders have him taken away to a psychiatric ward. It’s
    quite a drama.
    I googled Adrian Schoolcraft and found this NYT story:
    In “Living Criminologically with Naked Emperors” (
    critpapers/pepinsky1.pdf) first published in the Criminal Justice
    Policy Review in 2000, I argued that COMPSTAT’s reputed success in
    controlling crime in New York was a well-established pattern of
    focusing on arrests and downgrading or not recording crime. I feel
    vindicated. Schoolcraft indicates that my speculation was entirely correct. As
    far as I can see, police crime recording always has been and always will be
    politically corrupt, transparently so from the outset. Love and
    peace, hal