6 years ago

Chief Discusses Facts Behind Crime Data Calculations

Much has been made on a “war” between the Milwaukee Police Chief and the local newspaper of record.

When presenting the department’s initial report on the MPD’s internal crime data audit before the Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Safety Committee Thursday, June 21, 2012, Chief Flynn said, “I want to be clear about what I am indignant about. I am not upset that the paper took a look at how we code data. I am not afraid of examination. I welcome it, “ Chief  Edward A. Flynn said.

He continued: “I am indignant about the implication that the work of my officers does not matter. I am indignant about the implication that there is somehow a vast conspiracy afoot at MPD that created any miscoding mistakes. And I am indignant about the implication that crime has not decreased in the past four years.”

In 2008, under then-new Police Chief Flynn, the Milwaukee Police Department began a focus on crime reduction that is community-based, problem-oriented and data-driven.

MPD’s deployments are based on timely information and the focus is on results. And there have been results. Milwaukee’s homicides have dropped from a 20-year average of 126 to a 4-year average of 81. During the same 4-year period, auto theft declined 42 percent.

The news of late has concentrated on how crime is measured, but has omitted the fact that there is no single accepted measure for crime in a community. There are proxy measures for progress on this front, such as the National Crime Victimization survey, self-reported surveys, uniform crime reports, incident based reporting and statutory violations.

Data management system

At MPD, measurements are generated by the MPD’s data management system. That system is comprised of four integrated subsystems that join together to share and exchange information. They are:

  • Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD)
  • Automated Reporting System (ARS)
  • Corrections Management System (CMS)
  • Records Management System (RMS)

On February 7, 2005, MPD began reporting crime statistics using the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS). From that NIBRS data, the state Department of Justice extracts summary data, which becomes the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) crime numbers for Milwaukee. NIBRS crimes are filtered out by the DOJ based on rules of hierarchy (meaning only the most serious crime arising from a single incident is counted) and therefore are not included in UCR summary reporting.

In 2005, MPD went live with Tiburon, the provider of MPD’s records management system. There were significant problems with its implementation, resulting in an initial delay in WIBRS reporting for the years 2005 and 2006.

In 2007, the Milwaukee Common Council requested an audit of MPD’s crime data system to determine functionality and to establish whether the state crime reporting requirements were being met. The same year, the city Comptroller’s office conducted an audit and concluded that MPD had difficulty with some important system functions that were not yet operational.

With scarcely a week on the job, in one of his first speeches in this city, this one with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Chief Flynn requested assistance from the private sector with technology help. And they answered. MPD was able to assemble a technology advisory committee to assist with vendor issues, implementation and trouble shooting with a level of expertise not known previously at the Department.

In September 2011, Chief Flynn directed the formation of a steering committee to assess the current data management system and to consider replacement of the system.

In May 2012 the Office of the Chief developed a Request for Information (RFI) to determine the best course of action regarding a new data management system.

Audit requested

During staff research into the data management system, Chief Flynn discovered there had never been an FBI audit of the system, so in March 2010, he asked for an FBI QAR (Quality Assurance Review). The FBI conducted that audit May 8,9 2012. The results are anticipated in August or September.

In the interest of due diligence in looking into whether there was an issue regarding the proper coding of crime, Chief Flynn directed a targeted audit to identify incidents that had the greatest likelihood of containing coding mistakes, resulting in the misclassification of aggravated assaults. MPD reviewed more than 34,000 assault-type reports from 2006-2012.

Here are the results:

  • Aggravated assaults have decreased over the past six years
  • Classification errors were made in both directions – over-reporting and under-reporting
  • Classification errors in the reporting of aggravated assault have decreased over the past six years

The results show that systems improvements already are occurring. The targeted audit is complete and a full scientific audit is underway. The misclassifications were due to systems deficiencies and human error. These mistakes did not affect investigations, prosecutions or proactive policing strategies.

“The work of the men and women of the MPD matters. I am proud to publicize and promote their efforts and the importance of their efforts to the success of this city,” Chief Flynn said.

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