Police Chief Edward Flynn came to Milwaukee almost five years ago, vowing to modernize the department with a data-driven approach, using timely information to analyze trends and deploy officers to hot spots. “If we can’t rely on the numbers, we’ve got some problems,” he said when he was sworn in. Flynn has touted the city’s falling crime numbers a dozen times, a trend that helped him become the first chief named to a second term in nearly 30 years.
Those numbers were deeply flawed and the department knew it. But it didn’t bother to tell the public, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It failed to correct the problems – including violent assaults, rapes, robberies and burglaries misclassified as less serious offenses – until they were exposed by the Journal Sentinel. A review of emails from top command staff shows there were concerns for years about a failure to train people at all levels and about a computer system so riddled with problems its results could not be trusted. “We just can’t be sure that anything is accurate because training was terrible for officers and for records management and we have no quality control,” Capt. Terrence Gordon, then head of the crime statistics, wrote in 2011 to Flynn’s chief of staff. Gordon wrote that the entire system, from beat officers filing reports to crime data sent to the state, should be audited.