The New York Police Department will seek disciplinary action against a group officers accused of cooking crime statistics, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement Friday.
A total of 19 officers stationed in the 40th precinct, which serves the southernmost part of the Bronx, will face "charges and specifications" — the most serious form of internal discipline in the NYPD. The commanding officer of the precinct, Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson, has been "administratively transferred," the statement said.
The accused cops — nine rank-and-file officers, eight sergeants, one lieutenant, and one detective — are accused of misreporting 55 criminal complaints across four months in 2014. Most of the allegedly misreported complaints were for such offenses as criminal trespass, misdemeanor assault, and criminal mischief.
As a result of the' alleged misreporting, statistics for the 40th precinct reflected a 14% decrease in overall crime in 2014, when in fact crime only decreased 11.4%, according to the NYPD.
"The purposeful misrepresentation of crime data is rare, but nevertheless unacceptable, and it will be dealt with accordingly," Bratton said in the statement. "Commanders are held strictly accountable for the integrity of crime complaint reporting within their commands."
The NYPD has a reputation as one of the most data-driven police departments in the world. Under an approach pioneered by Bratton during his first stint with the department in the early 1990s, the NYPD keeps extensive statistics documenting major and minor crimes across the city. Department brass then question precinct leaders about those statistics at regular meetings, where local commanders are expected to prove that their strategies are working to bring crime down.
Some analysts have credited Bratton's approach, known as CompStat, with the dramatic decrease in crime rates across New York over the past two decades. But critics argue that the practice of grilling individual commanders on quantifiable metrics sometimes tempts them to instate arrest quotas among their officers, or misreport statistics to give the impression crime is going down in their territory.
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union that represents the NYPD's rank-and-file officers, said in a statement that officers are "consistently hammered" by their managers to reduce crime despite a shortage of personnel.
We agree that crime stats have to be accurate in order to know where and when to assign police resources. However, because of the serious shortage of police officers over the last decade and a half, management has consistently hammered police officers to reduce felonies to misdemeanors. It’s an artificial way of keeping felonies down with fewer officers on the street, a problem that we still experience today.
This union has been vocal about the problem since 2004. Police officers follow the dictates of their bosses or they suffer the consequences. The PBA will vigorously defend these police officers.”
This is not the first time that the 40th precinct has come under scrutiny in recent years. In 2011, the precinct was at the center of a ticket-fixing scandal that led to criminal indictments for 15 officers and departmental discipline for more than 200, the New York Daily News reported.
The former 40th Precinct Commander who was transferred as a result of the allegations is Lorenzo Johnson. A previous version of this article misidentified the commander.