Earlier this summer, we blogged about an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel into the local police departments underreporting of assaults. Now, the Sentinel is reporting the department’s problems are even deeper—with rapes and robberies being classified as less serious offenses, throwing off any measure of the true crime rate of the city.
The police acknowledged reporting thousands of aggravated assaults as minor crimes, leaving out the details, for instance, that someone was shot or misclassifying a weapon so that the computer doesn’t alert to an inputted error. The department explained away these problems saying they were mistakes due to lack of training or computer problems, but that they were not an attempt to deliberately make the crime rate look lower.
The Sentinel says that some of the robberies and rapes they found misclassified may have already been flagged by the Department, but that there is no way to know for certain as Chief Edward Flynn only focused on aggravated assaults when addressing the problems in his 90 minute presentation in front of the Public Safety Committee.
The original Sentinel investigation found in May that “500 cases of aggravated assault were underreported as lesser crimes from 2009 to early this year. Another 800 incidents followed the same pattern but couldn’t be confirmed with available data.”
After the Sentinel’s initial report, the police department conducted their own review and found more than 5,300 cases where aggravated assaults were underreported as lesser crimes. It was a 20% error rate, 10 times higher than the national average.
In their newer findings, the paper found serious crimes, like a case of a man binding and raping a woman, classified as a simple assault.
In response to the reporting problems and even the questionable self-audit, the Fire and Police Commission is hiring PRI Management Group to conduct a review of the department’s audit among other things. The only problem with that: the PRI Management Group has publicly praised Chief Flynn’s handling of the entire fiasco, making it difficult to tell if a truly impartial review is likely.
“It sounds like they are his cheerleaders,” said alderman Tony Zielinski. “It doesn’t sound like they are going to be objective.”
As citizens, you want to know that the police in your city are honest. But it’s hard to trust the cops when the top cop minimizes rapes and robberies, seeming to kick them under the rug and walk away hoping no one notices.
If you are accused of a crime, any crime, you need someone to trust, and the police certainly aren’t on your side. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.