This week, former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly implicitly accused his successor Bill Bratton of manipulating crime statistics to make New York City look safer. And if anyone knows about manipulating crime statistics, it’s former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly.
“I think there is some issue with the numbers that are being put out,” Kelly said in a radio interview Monday. “I think there is some redefinition going on as to what amounts to a shooting. That sort of thing.” This is a valid question to raise about Bratton’s NYPD, but only because it’s a valid question to raise about any large urban police department. “Look, all administrations want to show that crime is down,” Kelly added. It’s true: police departments are probably always fudging the numbers on some level—and none more than Ray Kelly’s NYPD, which was accused of doing so frequently.
In 2010, eight years into Kelly’s second stint at the head of the department, dozens of ex-captains and officers said in an anonymous survey that pressure to appear to be lowering crime led commanders to juke the stats. Two years later, an internal NYPD report was publicized that substantiated their claims. “This is the underbelly of the program: the (crime) numbers are being gamed, plain and simple, and the numbers are being gamed because the (police district) commanders are under tremendous pressure to make the numbers look good. This is happening all over the city,” said John Eterno, a former NYPD captain and author of a book about the department’s stats-tracking program, in 2012.
Kelly’s motives for the claim are obvious: Stop-and-frisk, which became the trademark of his department, was widely rebuked by Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio upon the changing of the regime. In response, Kelly claimed repeatedly that the rebuke would make New York City more dangerous. Now, statistics show that crime is down despite a drastic reduction in street stops. To Kelly, the only feasible explanation is that the statistics are wrong.
The silver lining of the retired top cop’s prickishness comes in the New York Post’s writeup, which contains a sentence I really was not expecting to encounter in that paper today: “Overall, crime is at historic lows, according to NYPD CompStat figures.” This is a surprising admission from the Post, which ordinarily covers lawbreaking in its home city with a voice not unlike that of a sandwich-boarded doomsday preacher. Caught between its unending defense of the cops and its equally enduring support for critics of the liberal de Blasio administration, the paper was forced to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: Either the NYPD is lying, or New York City is safer today than it has ever been. I can’t imagine either of those options feel particularly good to Col Allan.