FROM MILWAUKEE POLICE CHIEF EDWARD A. FLYNN:
The accuracy of the Milwaukee Police Department’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data is an important matter that deserves sincere and serious attention. A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article details some errors in the way certain crimes may have been coded when our data were translated for reporting to the FBI for UCR purposes. The errors are real. They are being corrected. The FBI has already conducted an audit of our data – at our request – and a final report is expected soon. The MPD also has initiated its own multi-year audit to identify the error rates over time. The results of these audits will be shared as soon as the final reports are available.
The newspaper and certain corners of the local media continue to devote significant time and effort to convince the public that there is more to the story than understandable – and correctable – human error within a complex system of statutory definitions, federal categorizations and technological nuance. There are efforts to convince the public that the MPD is lying.
I want to reiterate three important points. First, and most critically, the efforts of our officers count. Cops matter. We have spent four years using data to drive our deployments and our strategies. These efforts have measurably improved Milwaukee neighborhoods and the lives of those who live and visit our city. We flatly reject the notion that the actions and interventions of police officers don’t matter.
Second, the inference that a bureaucratic coding error has any impact on the way we investigate crimes or refer them for prosecution is intellectually dishonest. These coding errors occurred in a process entirely separate from the investigation and prosecution of criminal behavior. To suggest that victims were mistreated or suspects were not brought to justice because of a UCR coding error is simply untrue.
Third, while the newspaper wants the public to believe that there is some conspiracy to fabricate crime data, we reiterate the fact that no one has ever complained to the MPD, to the Milwaukee Police Association or the Milwaukee Police Supervisor’s Association that any member of this Department has ever been directed to do something untoward with a crime report. The newspaper’s willingness to question the integrity of the men and women of this Department is deplorable.
We do not reject that errors sometimes occur in our coding of the more than 60,000 crime reports we submit to the FBI each year. We do reject the attempts by some to use these errors as a springboard to imply that our efforts don’t matter, that we are not properly investigating crimes, or that we are up to something malfeasant.
The newspaper’s executive editor released a statement on May 23 in which he said, “Presenting a distorted view of crime in the city does not serve the public.” We absolutely agree. Why, then, did the paper not attempt to use any benchmark to compare the errors they identified in 2011? The paper does not even attempt to offer comparable error rates for 2010 or 2009 or 2007 or 2000 or 1930 (when the UCR system began).
The newspaper reviewed records from 2009, 2010 and 2011. They identified 214 cases in 2011 in which a coding error may have occurred. They then attempt to conclude that violent crime in Milwaukee actually increased between 2010 and 2011 based on their findings. The problem: they are comparing apples to oranges. If the 2011 data require correction, how can those data be compared to uncorrected 2010 data? It is a simple and disingenuous distortion of data.
I share this statement with you, the community, so that you hear from me directly on this issue. Below is a video message taped by me and by Lt. Jeff Point that is being shared with all Milwaukee Police Officers at today’s roll calls. I share this message with you, as well.