Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel unveils a special report, revealing that the Milwaukee Police Department has been misreporting and misclassifying violent crimes — hundreds of beatings, stabbings and child abuse cases — resulting in public summaries that claim violent crime is decreasing in the city… when the numbers are actually increasing modestly.
It’s pretty horrifying:
At the request of the Journal Sentinel, FBI crime experts reviewed these and dozens of other incidents and confirmed that they should have been labeled as aggravated assaults. In addition to the more than 500 misreported incidents, the investigation found at least 800 more that fit the same pattern but could not be confirmed through available public records. The Journal Sentinel has submitted an open records request for those cases.
The misclassified crimes included cases where perpetrators threatened to kill victims; stabbed or cut them with knives; and beat them with canes, crowbars and hammers.
Nearly one-third of the assault cases identified by the Journal Sentinel involved the abuse of children – most were struck in the head with belts and electrical cords, causing cuts, bloody eardrums and black eyes.
Instead of accurately reporting the weapons used as firearms, knives or blunt objects, the department reported them to the state and FBI in a way that avoided triggering scrutiny by those who review the numbers.
Criminologists reviewed the Journal Sentinel’s findings and said they showed a pattern of misreporting that has helped drive down the city’s crime rate.
And the phenomenon is too frequent to be simple human error:
Sam Walker, criminology professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, said the Journal Sentinel’s investigation identified patterns that raise questions about the department’s procedures.
“That clearly indicates a systemic problem in the department – there has to be a failure of leadership,” he said. “If (police) do it in one or two cases, it’s not a big deal. If they do it in a large number of cases, it’s suspicious and probably improper. It’s something that needs to be corrected immediately.”
Why are you reading about this on a political blog? Well, one would wonder how high this effort to misrepresent crime statistics went up – was it just in the police department, or did it come from someplace higher? Where was the mayor during all this?
After all, the mayor isn’t shy about bragging about these declines: “I’m extremely pleased to report that in the last four years, we’ve seen dramatic declines in both violent and property crime. Between 2007 and 2011, total crime decreased 21.1 percent. This number translates into 25,508 fewer crime victims. The hard work of the Milwaukee Police Department is having a profound impact on our neighborhoods.”
Say, who is the mayor of Milwaukee? Tom Barrett? Where do I know that name?
Ah yes, he’s the Democrat challenging Scott Walker in the recall election. Say, let’s look at his campaign web site: “Tom has worked with law enforcement, community groups and residents to develop proactive strategies, and he has empowered the city’s police department with the resources and strong leadership it needs to get the job done. As a result, violent crime in Milwaukee has decreased by 20% over the past two years, and homicides are at the lowest levels in more than 20 years.”
Oh, are they, Mr. Mayor? Just how much faith do you have in those figures?