Police in Atlanta, New York City, New Orleans, and Broward County, Fl., have two things in common, reports the Miami Herald: They’ve been accused of manipulating crime data to improve their public image, and their problems began when they obtained computerized software called Powertrac to tally crime figures. The use of statistics-based software has changed the culture of police departments nationwide, making officers more accountable and more sensitive to how numbers affect their image.
Under Sheriff Ken Jenne, the Broward Sheriff’s Office appears to have become preoccupied with numbers from the top down, says the Herald. Success is measured by lowering the crime rate and clearing cases. In weekly briefings Jenne sits with undersheriff Tom Carney and others at a U-shaped table grilling underlings about issues as major as clusters of burglaries or as minor as neighborhood trash piles. The message is clear, according to at least 10 deputies who have spoken anonymously to The Herald: Careers will be made or broken based on Powertrac numbers. Said one deputy: “Police work should never be treated like a Fortune 500 company. We deal with people at their absolute worst every day and that can’t be measured like some company survey.”
An ongoing investigation into crime data has mushroomed to include cases of “exceptional clearance” — a law enforcement term indicating an arrest is impossible due to circumstances outside the agency’s control. Last week, Jenne said at least 60 crimes were “solved” using faulty confessions. He ordered an additional 1,024 cases to be reviewed. Jenne could not explain why no one in his agency questioned the high rate at which his deputies “solve” and clear crimes — 50.8 percent compared to a national average of 20 percent.