Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Get a 25% discount on our book The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation

Recent editorial Policing by the Numbers in The New York Times



Principal Investigator: John A. Eterno, Ph.D. Molloy College
Investigator: Eli B. Silverman, Ph.D. John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Released: June 14, 2012


     Principal Investigator John A. Eterno, Ph.D. in conjunction with Eli B. Silverman, Ph.D. recently conducted an extensive survey of NYPD retirees of all ranks. The results of this new study not only completely confirm the findings of their first survey of captains and above reported in February 2010 in the New York Times (conducted in September 2008), but also provide more in depth insights into the NYPD’s performance management system (known as Compstat) which has been emulated throughout the world. These new findings clearly debunk the NYPD’s rotten apple theory of isolated crime manipulation. Instead, this survey demonstrates that the manipulation of crime reports is widespread and systemic. Furthermore the bulk of this manipulation has occurred in more recent years - from 2002 onward.
     Using innovative internet based techniques, the investigators were able to conduct the survey in March 2012 and produce preliminary results in a timely manner. The instrument was sent via e-mail to 4,069 retirees with 1,962 responses. This indicates a return rate of 48.2% considered very good for an e-mail survey of retired government employees. The large sample size adds assurance that the findings accurately reflect the experiences of retired officers. The range of respondents’ date of retirement is from 1941 to 2012. This wide range allows comparisons over three key periods: pre-Compstat, before 1995 (562 respondents); early Compstat 1995-2001 (382 respondents); the Kelly/Bloomberg era 2002-2012 (871 respondents); and the remainder not giving a retirement year.
     The characteristics of survey respondents closely mirror those of NYPD retirees. This survey includes all ranks: 10 chiefs, 36 inspectors, 63 captains, 262 lieutenants, 382 sergeants, 1,154 police officers/detectives, 3 other (52 did not indicate their rank). The number of retirees in each rank comports well with known rank distributions of the NYPD. That is, police officers/detectives are the largest group with descending counts as one goes up the ranks. Thus, as expected, there are fewer sergeants compared to police officers/detectives and so forth. Education level is also as expected: 8 percent with a high school only education (NYPD now has a 2 year education/military requirement to join), 44 percent with some college, 30 percent with a college degree, 7 percent with some graduate education, and 11 percent with an advanced degree.


     Crime statistics: Results indicate that the majority of retirees (60%) lacked confidence in the accuracy of official NYPD index crime statistics which proclaim a huge decrease of about 80 percent since 1990. Most of these respondents (89.2%) felt that crime did decrease but not to the extent claimed by NYPD management. Of those who indicated crime declined but not as precipitously as NYPD suggests, on average, felt it was about one-half of what NYPD claims. Specifically, on average, these officers felt that crime actually went down 42% in New York City. Interestingly, this comports almost exactly with the nationwide drop in crime during the same period.
     Pressure from management/supervisors: Officers were also asked to gauge the levels of pressure they felt from management/supervisors. They were asked to base their answers on their personal experiences/knowledge. With respect to pressure to increase summonses, increase stop and frisk, increase arrests, decrease index crime, and downgrade index to non-index crime, there is a clear pattern that completely corresponds with our previous research. Namely pressures were greatest for every variable for officers who worked during the Compstat era. Thus, results indicate that pressures significantly increased from 1995 to 2001 (the Giuliani years). In this study we were able to parse out the effect of those who worked 2002 and onward. Importantly, we also find that the pressure markedly increases from 2002 onward to much higher levels. Thus there is increasing pressure in the Compstat era and then significantly added pressure in the current era. This is clearly demonstrable throughout the data.
     We also note that the pattern is similar when it comes to protecting Constitutional rights and ensuring crime statistics are accurate. For these variables, however, we see the least pressure to obey the law and accurately report statistics in the current era (the Bloomberg/Kelly years). We do note that initially during Compstat’s first years, these percentages were favorable. This precisely substantiates our long standing position - that Compstat was initially a positive development but morphed into a “numbers game.” Every indicator supports our basic theme.
     Importantly, we observe that the increase in stop and frisks is particularly strong ranging from about 9 percent before Compstat to over 35 percent feeling high pressures in the current Kelly/Bloomberg era. Additionally, we note that downgrading is itself suspect activity. While there was a modest increase at the beginning of Compstat, it appears that the bulk of downgrading pressures are more current. The large percentage indicating high pressure to downgrade has grown astoundingly to nearly 40% in the current era. This is a major concern. Combined with these facts are the weakest pressures to accurately report crime statistics and obey legal restrictions in the current era. We now specifically examine crime report manipulation.


     Crime Report Manipulation: We also asked officers a variety of questions about whether they had personal knowledge of crime report manipulation. Again, a clear pattern emerged with the most recent era (2002 and onward) showing the highest personal knowledge by officers of such manipulation - by far. Approximately 50 percent of officers who retired in 2002 and after had personal knowledge of crime report manipulation. Also note the very high percentages of respondents who worked after 2002 indicating they had personal knowledge of 3 or more such incidents. This is clear evidence that this is systemic throughout the NYPD.


     A few examples of open-ended responses:
  1. As a [supervisor] and an attorney with 30 years experience I was ordered not to review complaints because I often raised the charges and refused to lower crime classifications. False reporting is endemic in the police department. 
  2. Assault becomes harassment, robbery becomes grand larceny, grand larceny becomes petit larceny, burglary becomes criminal trespass. All with editing/creative writing on complaint reports by supervisors after submission. 
  3. The heightened emphasis by COs on "crime reduction" (or under-reporting) occurred mainly due to the implementation of COMPSTAT meetings, whereby Pct Cos were belittled, humiliated, ambushed and confronted with crime patterns of which they were unaware, and embarrassed in front of (and by) the brass ... After one beating, you'd have to be a consummate idiot to report higher crime stats the next time. 
  4. Pressure to lower crime stats came from 1 PP. Dramatic lows were unattainable year to year yet Commanding Officers had to withstand "public flogging" and embarrassment at Compstat meetings. Those meetings were the driving force to keep numbers low… 
  5. Years ago, the 61's were done by the police officer on the street and turned into the 124 room for entry into the system, they were only looked at for errors and omissions. Now before they are turned in they are looked at to see how the crime can be downgraded, and as such sometimes the report that is entered into the system is not what the street Officer had written and it is changed without knowledge or consent of the officer. Many times the 61 was totally re-written and the officers name and signature were photocopied on to a new report and a copy of the whole report was filed and the original was never to be seen again. the statistics game has changed the way we do policing but not for the good, and the average person that wants to make a legitimate complaint is totally discouraged and a report will be taken to placate them only till they leave and another report will done downgrading the original report to a lesser crime thus making it seem like things are better, when in reality it is just the opposite.
  6. Heard Deputy Commissioner XXXXX say in a pre Compstat meeting that a CO should just consolidate burglaries that occurred in an apartment building and count as one. Also not to count leap year stats. Make reporting a crime difficult to discourage the victims from following through such as asking for receipts and making the person appear in person at the SH [station house]. Discouraging Schools from reporting thefts or if they did consolidate thefts into one felony report or separate into multiple misd [misdemeanor] reports. Shred reports for those with no insurance etc. Inventory shrinkage from retail stores would be classified at the wholesale value of item rather than retail value to downgrade to misd [misdemeanor]. Reckless Endangerment used instead of attempted assault especially in shoot and miss situations.
Survey Wording Issue
     Our initial 2008 survey triggered a barrage of spin from the NYPD and its allies. They claimed that: 1. the study was funded by the Captain’s Endowment Association (CEA); 2. the study did not ask about personal experiences; 3. the study did not ask for counts of incidents. On the first issue, the NYPD spin was simply wrong. The CEA did not pay for the study; rather a grant from Molloy College did - the CEA only gave us access to their retired members. Their claim has no merit whatsoever. The second two issues had little possibility of accuracy for numerous reasons outlined in our book and articles; however, it was remotely conceivable. So in response to the NYPD’s non-scientific critical comments (as evidenced by two accepted peer reviewed studies and an academic book published by the authors on their previous study), the authors incorporated the following wording into the most controversial questions: “Based on your experience, do you have any personal knowledge of...” This 2012 study shows clear evidence that our 2008 interpretations are absolutely accurate exposing the NYPD’s position as misguided, at best.

     Frank Serpico in testifying before the Knapp Commission stated, “The department must realize that an effective, continuing relationship between the police and the public is more important than an impressive arrest record. The system of rewards within the Police Department should be based on a policeman’s overall performance with the public rather than on his ability to meet arrest quotas. And merely uncovering widespread patterns of corruption will not resolve that problem. Basic changes in attitude and approach are vital. In order to insure this, an independent permanent investigative body dealing with police corruption, like this commission, is essential.”

His words are prophetic and, unfortunately, still ring true today. This study and what is now overwhelming evidence from numerous sources (including whistleblowers with recorded evidence to support them) as well as NYPD’s impotent response (a 3 person panel that has yet to report its findings long overdue and meaningless without subpoena power, immunity, and independence from the NYPD; and, a few lower level scapegoats punished) is a clear demonstration of the need for as Frank Serpico states “an independent permanent investigative body dealing with police corruption.”