Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Data driven

It is upsetting, although unfortunately not overly surprising,  to read that NOPD detectives handling rape cases don't believe rape is a crime,
Another detective, identified as Detective D, "told at least three different individuals that Detective D did not believe that simple rape should be a crime," according to the IG. "Simple rape" is a felony in the state criminal code and is defined as knowingly having sex with someone who is incapable of resisting or giving consent.
But the question to ask, then, is why put this sort of person on these kinds of cases?  Seems like poor personnel management, right?  Thomas Morstead is a hell of a punter but you don't want to ask him to do a lot of passing if it isn't his thing.

And remember we're not talking about one officer playing out of position but five. So one wonders if there might have been a reason for that. 
The new report adds disturbing detail to the picture of an NOPD sex crimes unit that former Police Chief Ronal Serpas acknowledged had a historical tendency to look for ways to disprove rape allegations rather than attempting to back them up.

It also buttresses the IG's audit findings from May that already questioned if large percentages of sex crimes were being improperly downgraded.

Following up on the audit that sampled 90 cases in the spring, Quatrevaux's office focused in on the five detectives who were assigned to cases in that sample that lacked key documentation.

Expanding their review to all 1,290 sex-crime-related calls for service that were assigned to those five detectives between Jan. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2013, investigators found that 840 cases, or 65 percent of the calls, were classified as "miscellaneous incidents," not sex crimes, and closed without follow-up.
It was good of Serpas to acknowledge NOPD's "historical tendency" to downgrade rape cases.  But then maybe it helps to have a tendency in order to recognize it.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas' tenure as police chief in Nashville is under scrutiny amid recent revelations that the police department there is reclassifying hundreds of sexual assault reports.

The move comes after media reports that showed disparities in how reported crimes were calculated and questioned the claims of public safety officials about drops in crime. 
At the time we hired Serpas away from Nashville, though, the emphasis was on his PhD in criminology tied to his cutting edge "data driven" approach to crime fighting.
Landrieu has even set out to overhaul the New Orleans Police Department, which has a sordid history of corruption and crooked cops. The city’s murder rate is the highest in the country—10 times the national average—and the violence can be savage and chilling (one guy dismembered and cooked his girlfriend). “The culture of death and violence on our streets is unnatural,” Landrieu said in a July speech. He’s responded by naming a new police chief, Ronal Serpas, who specializes in data-driven and community policing. And he called in the Justice Department—which is pursuing at least eight criminal investigations of the NOPD—to oversee police reforms.
I always worry when I read about "data-driven" public service delivery. Not because I have anything against data or.. the sense of technocratic professionalism the term implies. More often, though, it's a sign an agency is less interested in its actual mission than it is on manipulating perceptions of its performance. For example. 
The classifications and handling of sexual-assault allegations has been a hot topic in national law enforcement and victims' rights circles.

Experts testifying before a U.S. Senate panel months ago called on Congress to put more oversight on the statistics that most local police departments report to the FBI. They asked Congress to implement more stringent reporting requirements and an update to the terms that police use in investigation sexual assault allegations.

The panel was prompted in part by reports across the country that police were downgrading or misclassifying cases. In Baltimore, police have reclassified numerous investigations and are looking at why some allegations were ignored.

And this week, a Cleveland newspaper reported that its police force closed more than 50 sexual assault investigations without ever identifying a suspect.

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