State and local leaders called for independent audits of the Milwaukee Police Department’s crime numbers, citing a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation that found more than 500 cases in which serious assaults were misclassified as lesser offenses. The review discovered an additional 800 cases since 2009 that follow the same pattern but couldn’t be verified with available public records.
The Journal Sentinel found enough misreported cases in 2011 alone that violent crime would have increased 1.1 percent instead of falling 2.3 percent from the reported 2010 figures, which had their own errors. The Journal Sentinel’s investigation included 60,000 cases, which amounted to more than one-fifth of the 280,000 reported crimes in the period covered. Police Chief Edward Flynn met with a reporter and acknowledged a sample of the incidents identified were misreported as minor assaults. When this occurs, the crimes are not counted as part of the city’s violent crime rate, which has seen reported drops for four consecutive years. Flynn attributed the crime coding problems to human and computer error. “In many ways, these are issues of competence as well as integrity,” he said. “I have absolute faith in the integrity of this organization. Human error is not the same as malicious change of data.”