Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Chief Strikes Back: Supporter of Milwaukee PD Chief Ed Flynn Says Flynn is being Smeared

By Nicholas Stix
Slightly expanded, Sunday, June 10, 2012, 2:25 p.m.


“Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn: ‘The Computer Ate My Crime Stats’: ‘Disappearing’ Crime in Milwaukee… and Everywhere Else”; and

“From Compstat to Fakestat: The Epidemic of Fraudulent Official Crime Reports.”]

My man in Seattle, BR, forwarded the following article to me, which is a very sophisticated defense of Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn. I’m guessing that it was authored by a top Flynn aide.

Dear Mr. Stix,

A supporter of Flynn in Wisconsin forwarded the below statement to me. As I don't live in Wisconsin, I know nothing about this subject other than what I read. However, in the interest of fairness, I thought you might like to see what a Flynn supporter has to say. I do not know the original source of this forwarded information, but I do know the forwarder.

Best wishes,


Forwarded statement:

Subject: Flynn

1) There are two bellwether crimes that can be used to gauge crime rates: Homicide and Auto Theft. Why? Because you can’t hide bodies, and people report car thefts to their insurance companies. By these measures, Milwaukee crime is down substantially since Chief Flynn came. Over the 20 years previous to his taking office, Milwaukee’s homicides averaged 127 per year. Since Chief Flynn began, homicides have averaged 85 over the last 4 years. Auto theft is down 42 % since 2007. [N.S.: So far, so good, but where are the GTA stats?]

2) THE F.B.I. calculates crimes using “unified crime types”, or UCT’s. There is only one category of UCT that has two categories: Aggravated assault and Simple assault. There is no “simple homicide”, for example; there is only “homicide”. In the 3 years discussed in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (JS) story—2009, 2010, and 2011— there were 9000 Aggravated Assaults and 18,000 simple assaults; a total of 27,000 assaults reported. During this period, there were 190,000 crime reports made. An error rate of 500 in 190,000 is not unreasonable.

[This is a false comparison. The proper error rate is within assaults. The Journal-Sentinel reporter, Ben Poston, found that at least 500 additional aggravated assaults had been misclassified, i.e., 5.6 percent more. However, Poston was very conservative, and it is very likely that 800 additional (e.g., 1,300 overall) aggravated assaults were misclassified as simple assaults, i.e., 14.4 percent more. Even by Poston’s conservative methods, the Milwaukee PD was able to turn an increase in crime into a decrease. And that’s patently unreasonable. The difference between an official decrease in crime and an official increase can be the difference between a police chief keeping his job and getting fired.

Note that the anonymous writer is counting every level of crime report, including for the lowest-level misdemeanors; however, the crime debate is over serious index crimes—murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, arson and grand theft auto—not spitting on the sidewalk.]

3) Before Chief Flynn began, the JS reported that MPD’s data system was a complete mess. In 2005, MPD couldn’t even retrieve the data to make the report to the FBI. When Chief Flynn came, he asked for the assistance of the private sector to help make this multi-million dollar system—which he was stuck with—to work. Now the Journal-Sentinel wants to pretend that any problems with the system are because Flynn is cheating.

[For the past 20 or so years, urban police departments, starting with New York’s, have credited much of their success to the use of computer statistical methods—COMPSTAT. And Flynn used the same system that he and the anonymous writer are blaming, to trumpet his supposed great success.]

4) The JS story creates the false notion that the only errors in crime reporting were on Flynn’s watch. And, when it calculates the errors, it assumes that no errors were made in the preceding years. This is not only unlikely, it’s demonstrably false. If you know that there are reporting errors in every year, then you don’t pull out one year, remove the errors, and calculate the crime rate. If the error rates exist in every year, then the calculations of crimes rising and falling can’t be made by pulling all the errors out of one year.

[This is a good point, and it would have behooved Flynn to make it when he took over four years ago, not now that his numbers have started to smell like a four-day- old fish.

That’s what Chief Richard Pennington did, when he took over the Atlanta PD in 2002. He immediately had an audit performed, which showed that the record-keeping had been atrocious.]

5) The JS does not make any effort to benchmark the error rates of other police departments around the country using this system. What is normal? What falls within the rates of human error? They don’t tell us.

[Other departments around the country are lying, just like the MPD is, and for the same reasons, and using the many of the same methods. Does the writer really want to discuss the national scandal of fraudulent police record-keeping, or just score local, partisan, debating points?]

6) As general background, in the 4 years that Chief Flynn has been in office, the MPD has gone from making 53,000 traffic stops to 190,000 traffic stops per year; from 14,000 pedestrian stops to 60,000 per year, all focusing on Milwaukee’s crime hot spots. No reasonable person can argue that these actions had no effect on crime rates.

[If those numbers are real, and arose as part of a stop-and-frisk strategy which confiscated large numbers of guns and knives, they will likely have contributed to reducing the murder rate. But the writer says nothing of weapons confiscations.]

7) Irony alert: The only reason the F.B.I. is auditing the MPD is that Chief Flynn invited them to do so. MPD had never been audited before, and the Chief believed that it was important. To use the internal audit numbers—an audit instigated by the Chief—as evidence that MPD is conspiring to hide the numbers is like accusing Scott Walker of wrong-doing when he instigated the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s John Doe investigation.

[That’s very interesting, but the FBI didn’t expose the MPD, the Journal-Sentinel did. Apparently, Chief Flynn had little to fear from the Bureau, which has been worthless, when it comes to exposing fake crime stats in recent years. The last time I can recall the Bureau condemning a local department’s stats involved the Boca Raton PD over 10 years ago.

In the spring of 2011, the FBI announced that that crime had been down nationally for 20 years, and was at historic lows, which was celebrated by the leftwing MSM. The basis for the Bureau’s claim was its UCRs (Uniform Crime Reports), but those are nothing more than regurgitations of the phony crime stats each city gives it. Thus, were the cities using the FBI for truth-laundering, much in the way that banks used to bundle huge numbers of “liar loans” as "Mortgage-backed Securities" and "Collateralized Debt Obligations", and sell them on up the line. And we know how that worked out, or at least readers do.]

8) Chief Flynn came to Milwaukee at the behest of the greatest living crime expert, Dr. George Kelling, of Rutgers University and the Manhattan Institute. Dr. Kelling is the author of Fixing Broken Windows. Perhaps he is best known for having advised Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Chief William Bratton of New York City in their reclamation of the the [sic] streets of New York in the 1990’s.

[The NYPD’s crime stats (here and here) have repeatedly been discredited as fraudulent. If you’re looking to defend Chief Flynn, using the New York model is a heck of a way to go about doing it.

I like George Kelling, but using him also does not help your case. Kelling is not a disinterested observer. Both his ego, as one of the three founders of “Broken Windows Policing” theory (with his wife, Catherine Coles, and the late James Q. Wilson), and his pocketbook, as a consultant who has made a small fortune advising police executives, are riding on the acceptance of his methods. And I am unaware of Kelling ever exposing or criticizing departments for producing fraudulent crime statistics.]

9) In every case where Police Department reform has been implemented around the world—whether in New York, in Los Angeles, in Dallas, in Milwaukee—reformers know that the old guard will attack the reforms by claiming that they’re cooking the books.

[The Dallas PD has also been caught massively cooking the books, and corruption has been built into the LAPD’s numbers for over 30 years, thanks to Special Order 40. In any event, most departments that announced massive decreases in crime got a pass for years, because critics knew that admitting that crime was much worse than the police were reporting meant that blacks and Hispanics were committing many more crimes than had previously been reported.]

10) More irony: Before coming to Milwaukee, Chief Flynn was appointed Secretary of Massachusetts’s Department of Public Safety by then- Governor Mitt Romney.

[I don’t get it; where’s the irony?]

11) It is mystifying why the JS, whose biases and lack of credibility are by-words among conservatives, can suddenly be hailed as the source of accurate information.

[I see. This is coupled with #10. Thus, you were using “irony” in the manner of a political hack, who actually lives in a world of iron.

So, those of us who are right-of-center, are obliged to give Flynn a free ride, because he was a Romney appointee, the Journal-Sentinel attacked him, and we are all Republican hacks.

This may come as a shock to the (likely) Flynn aide who wrote this rejoinder, but not all of us respond to factual statements based solely on the perceived political loyalty of the reporter. Not even the New York Times always lies, and each researcher has to turn on his b.s. detector, no matter who he’s reading.

The report in question was not written by the “Journal-Sentinel,” but by a particular reporter, Ben Poston. Are you saying that Poston lied? If not, then hold your peace.]

12) When the FBI’s numbers come out in 4-6 weeks, Chief Flynn will be vindicated; the Governor will look foolish; and the relationship with a potentially valuable ally will have been destroyed.

[Again, you’re looking at this through an expressly political prism, in terms of political advantage. But while you’re politicizing this issue, why do you think the FBI should get a free ride, especially within the Holder Justice Department? If the FBI gives the MPD a bill of clean health, it will mean nothing, unless it can credibly explain the differences between its interpretations and those of the JS report.]

13) Bottom line: Cops Matter; The work they do matters. The MPD doesn’t need to fudge the numbers to prove they’ve reduced crime. Destroying the public’s confidence in the police department of Wisconsin’s largest city is a dangerous, even reckless thing to do. The collateral damage argument is extremely unwise.

[So, those of us who cover crime are supposed to cover for crooked top cops? (And what on earth is the “collateral damage argument”?) Telling the truth disrespects the cops on the street? Is that what this is really about? Tell that to your diversity trainers, because my ears are deaf to that line of bull. Meanwhile, tell those cops on the street to make themselves matter, by doing the job the way it’s supposed to be done. And if their chief handcuffs them, they have to blow the whistle on him. Do it pseudonymously, but do it.

If the propaganda writer thinks he’ll force people to choose between loyalty to cops and loyalty to the truth, he’s made a big mistake. Over the past generation, way too many street cops have gone over to the dark side and supported racist, black and Hispanic criminals, while waging war on law-abiding white and Asian citizens, to expect a reservoir of good will to remain. And I suspect that he’s had a hand in that development.]

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