It's Hard To Believe The Top Brass At MPD Isn't Cooking The Books


It's Hard To Believe The Top Brass At MPD Isn't Cooking The Books

CREATED May. 25, 2012

In the past, I've been critical of the local newspaper for - in my opinion - manipulating statistics in order to paint the Milwaukee Police Department in the worst light possible.  That said, I think they've got a point with their analysis of how crime statistics are being reported - or not reported as the case may be.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn is a big "numbers" guy.  He defines success by statistics. It now seems like his Department is massaging those statistics to make things seem better than they actually are.  He wouldn't be the first public official to try to pull something like this.

Long story short, it seems like MPD has been improperly classifying hundreds - perhaps thousands - of crimes.  According to the local newspaper, the evidence shows a pattern of taking serious crimes and wrongfully classifying them as less serious offenses.  The effect of this is that it gives the impression that serious crime is down - when it's really not.

Chief Flynn doesn't dispute that errors occurred - but instead argues that the errors are isolated and the result of "human and computer error".

"Human and computer error"!?  Really?  Can you imagine if a criminal used that excuse on an arresting officer?

First, if street officers (or computers) are making mistakes, wouldn't you expect there to be mistakes on both sides of the issue.  That is, for every serious crime that is wrongly reported as a minor crime, wouldn't you expect there to be corresponding examples of minor crimes misreported as serious crimes?  That the "mistakes" overwhelmingly appear to be in one direction is suspicious at best.

Second, if officers (or computers) are making errors in reporting crimes, why are supervisors not catching the mistakes?

I actually think that the crime problem in Milwaukee has gotten better over the last few years.  The problem is that the effort to quantify "how much better" appears to be deeply flawed. 

Candidly, if the analysis in the newspaper is correct, it's hard to believe that the top brass at MPD didn't realize how flawed the numbers were.  If they did know the flaws in their numbers, it's unconscionable that they foisted them off on the public as being accurate.

It's what we call "cooking the books" - and if it happened, heads should roll.