Under Ray Kelly, the NYPD has put itself in a tough spot: Summonses and stop-and-frisks are through the roof, but the crime rate must remain low. As a result, officers claim, they’re pushed to downgrade crimes to lesser offenses in order to rig the stats. As Chris Smith wrote for New York this year, “The commissioner inherited CompStat, the innovative marriage of computer-analyzed crime stats and grilling of field commanders. But in the Kelly era, CompStat has filtered through every facet of the department, and making a good show at those meetings has become an obsession.”
A new survey of retired officers explored in the New York Times today finds that 80 percent of the 2,000 cops that responded had personally seen manipulation of numbers more than three times. “I think our survey clearly debunks the Police Department’s rotten-apple theory,” said one criminologist behind the study. “This really demonstrates a rotten barrel.” Even the department has acknowledged the problem before, although you wouldn’t know that now.
Crime has still declined since the nineties, the survey says, just “not to the extent claimed by NYPD management” — it’s a well-practiced illusion. “You show up to someone who had their iPhone snatched, but you don’t put it over the air because you don’t know if it’s gonna be a crime yet,” one cop explained to Smith for New York. “We have to bring the victim back to the station, where he’s gonna be waterboarded by the sergeant: ‘Are you sure you didn’t drop your phone?’ Next thing you know, it’s lost property. ‘Hey, maybe I left it on the train! Maybe it fell out of my pocket when I got punched in the face!’”
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne tells the Times that the new survey’s methodology is trash, but doesn’t go so far as to say its findings are not true. A five-part Village Voice series from 2010 chronicled the stat-fixing through whistle-blower Adrian Schoolcraft, who revealed strict quotas and rampant downgrading.
An NYPD investigation into his claims at Brooklyn’s 81st precinct found, “When viewed in their totality, a disturbing pattern is prevalent and gives credence to the allegation that crimes are being improperly reported in order to avoid index-crime classifications.” Examples of those who had crimes against them made to look less bad included, “a Chinese-food delivery man robbed and beaten bloody, a man robbed at gunpoint, a cab driver robbed at gunpoint, a woman assaulted and beaten black and blue, a woman beaten by her spouse, and a woman burgled by men who forced their way into her apartment.”
“If we don’t write the summons, you hear about it from the sergeant; if we do, from the public. So we’re just the bad guy, either way,” one officer told New York. “Where do we turn? It’s horrible now.” And according to this new survey, it’s been that way for a while.