The outsized media coverage of the feud between NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Ray Kelly, the man he replaced, is in its second week. Kelly says this. Bratton says that. Not unlike their commitment to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s soap opera, the media loves a political feud even if most New Yorkers could care less.
Bratton and Kelly’s squabble isn’t unimportant, though, because it offers a glimpse at a larger problem.
If Bratton’s NYPD has downgraded crimes as Kelly alleges (not surprising in light of reports that his LAPD did this for years), people should know. Keeping in mind that Kelly, the finger-pointer today, has been accused of the same, the massaging of stats isn’t uncommon. Ever since CompStat was implemented, commanders have been pressured to drive crime down, precincts have shied from reporting serious crime.
The NYPD should make its practices and data public. While Bratton has resisted calls for a probe, there are signs Kelly’s criticisms have lit a fire at 1 Police Plaza. After years of complaints about its frustrating practice of providing CompStat data in (harder to analyze) PDF form, the NYPD has released a more user-friendly searchable database. There are, however, more questions than what Kelly claims about shooting statistics.
Bratton testified last year that NYPD use-of-force incidents were at all-time lows. More than a year later, essentially admitting the NYPD’s data collection was flawed, 1 Police Plaza unveiled new use-of-force reporting guidelines. The city’s boasts that stop-and-frisks have declined dramatically, a fraction of what they were under Kelly, should similarly raise eyebrows — and be scrutinized. My suspicions are that such incredible drops in stops, reported by cops, couldn’t produce nearly identical racial disparities without a concerted effort to minimize their prevalence on stat sheets — if not the streets.
Kelly’s personal and political motivations for doubting Bratton aside, a blue wall of silence within the department has been with us even before ex-cop Frank Serpico and the Knapp Commission revealed entrenched corruption in the 1970s. The results can be even more insidious that a misclassified crime stat.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.