In the wake of a scandal where an officer recorded his superiors telling cops to ignore reports of serious crimes and focus on making lots of arrests for minor things, a new survey of retired NYPD officers confirms that this sort of thing was routine.
An anonymous survey of nearly 2,000 retired officers found that the manipulation of crime reports — downgrading crimes to lesser offenses and discouraging victims from filing complaints to make crime statistics look better — has long been part of the culture of the New York Police Department.
The results showed that pressure on officers to artificially reduce crime rates, while simultaneously increasing summonses and the number of people stopped and often frisked on the street, has intensified in the last decade, the two criminologists who conducted the research said in interviews this week.
“I think our survey clearly debunks the Police Department’s rotten-apple theory,” said Eli B. Silverman, one of the criminologists, referring to arguments that very few officers manipulated crime statistics. “This really demonstrates a rotten barrel.” …The survey, conducted earlier this year, was financed by Molloy College. Dr. Eterno and Dr. Silverman e-mailed a questionnaire to 4,069 former officers who had retired since 1941. Roughly 48 percent — 1,962 retired officers of all ranks — responded.
The respondents ranged from chiefs and inspectors to sergeants and detectives. About 44 percent, or 871, had retired since 2002. More than half of those recent retirees said they had “personal knowledge” of crime-report manipulation, according to the summary, and within that group, more than 80 percent said they knew of three or more instances in which officers or their superiors rewrote a crime report to downgrade the offense or intentionally failed to take a complaint alleging a crime.
The questionnaire did not ask for specific examples, but it did invite respondents to comment. The summary included remarks from six former officers, but did not indicate their ranks.
One officer, who retired in 2005, wrote that he heard a deputy commissioner say in a “pre-CompStat meeting” that a commanding officer “should just consolidate burglaries that occurred in an apartment building and count as one.”
“Also not to count leap-year stats.”
Another respondent, who retired in 2008, wrote, “Assault becomes harassment, robbery becomes grand larceny, grand larceny becomes petit larceny, burglary becomes criminal trespass.”
NYPD has heralded an allegedly dramatic reduction in serious crime in that city since the Giuliani administration, but the evidence clearly suggests that this reduction may have more to do with manipulation than with any actual change in crime rates.