A year has passed since Chicago magazine raised serious questions about the accuracy of the Chicago Police Department's crime statistics under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his top cop, Garry McCarthy. The investigation found that the department underreported homicides in 2013 by misclassifying at least 10 killings and systematically downgraded other violent felonies and serious property crimes. Did the police superintendent's office check into the truth behind the cases the magazine flagged? It doesn't appear so, the magazine reports. According to scores of internal emails obtained through a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, top officials in the police department focused on damage control.
With no meaningful oversight (unlike Los Angeles, Chicago lacks an independent inspector general for the police department) and without political pressure to shape up, police brass appear just as willing now as before to engage in or tolerate statistical sleights of hand to lower the city's official crime tally. In 2014, the department not only continued many of the same practices it used to keep murders off the books in 2013 but also devised some new tricks that stretched the crime-counting guidelines in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's rule book thinner than ever. Police officials “keep coming up with new creative ways to mislead people,” says Eli Silverman, a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert on big-city crime statistics. “It reminds me of three-card monte.”