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.