Knowing what you do about crime report manipulation by the New York City Police Department, you are asked, as a criminal justice expert, what should be done about it. Explain your plan using specific information from this lesson.
The student’s question implies an acknowledgement that manipulation of crime reporting statistics has occurred within the New York City Police Department and that instructions and pressures from police officers’ chains of command have been a significant factor in this practice. It is further acknowledged that the problem of manipulation of data is systemic and not merely a series of unfortunate incidents among officers. One New York Times article on the matter quoted an expert on the subject:
“I think our survey clearly debunks the Police Department’s rotten-apple theory,” said Eli B. Silverman, one of the criminologists, referring to the position that argues very few officers manipulate crime statistics. “This really demonstrates a rotten barrel.”
Additionally, a scholarly research project into the matter of manipulation of crime data titled “Police Manipulation of Crime Reporting: Insiders’ Revelations” (John Eterno, et.al., Justice Quarterly, 17 November 2014) concludes definitively, based upon surveys of retired NYPD officers and the testimonies of police department whistle-blowers, that manipulation of crime data has been widespread and directed downward as a means of manipulating the public perception of crime in the nation’s largest city.
With the question of whether there has been systemic cases of manipulation of crime data within the New York City Police Department settled, the question next becomes what measures can best be adopted to address the problem. The scholarly study referenced above (a link to which is available below) emphasizes the imperative of transparency in how the police department operates. As an opaque organization with respect to internal functions, an increase in transparency would allow the public and myriad official and unofficial (e.g., nongovernmental organizations) watchdog groups to monitor department policies for instances of corruption.
Another potential corrective would directly combat corruption among officers—for example, corruption involving bribes in exchange for dereliction of duty on the part of officers. This measure, admittedly controversial and likely to incur the wrath of police unions, is the occasional polygraphing of officers. So-called lie detector tests can be useful in ferreting out instances of wrongdoing among individuals sworn to enforce the law.
While manipulation of crime reporting data is hardly as important to public safety as cases of corrupt police officers undermining investigations into serious crimes like murder and drug trafficking, the fact remains that manipulation of crime reporting data does undermine both public safety and public confidence in the institutions of law. Moreover, because the problem of maintaining the integrity of crime reporting data appears to begin at the top of the organizational hierarchy, it is incumbent upon elected officials in the state legislature to increase oversight of the city’s department, preferably with the cooperation of that city’s mayor and council. Jurisdictional issues fall to the wayside when the budget is raised in discussions, and the state legislature controls the state’s budget. Additionally, it would be good if the city’s mayor focused more attention on this matter, but that may be going too far.