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I have to yawn every time I see academic
research where crime statistics are
heavily relied upon to validate theories
and conclusions.  While most people
would agree that academics feel
intellectually superior, and not without
reason, they still rely on statistical data
provided by the less intellectual among
us.

You would think that since crime is such
a critical social issue that affects everyone
to some degree, every police department
would make extraordinary efforts to
accurately report crime.  In fact, the FBI's
Uniform Crime Reporting System has
existed for decades.  The system is
superbly designed to accurately classify
types and instances of crime committed
in the United States.
The incredible advancements in computer
technology have made the potential for
statistical analysis endless.  It's too bad
no one has found a way to remove
people from the process.  People will
always be the determining factor for the
accuracy, or near accuracy, of statistical
compilations.
You'll learn very quickly that somebody is
tracking something all the time, and you'll
be expected to provide the statistics.  
Hopefully, you won't be subjected to the
"this" today and "something else" next
week.  If you are...just resign yourself to
the inconvenience.

Even when a good system is in place to
track useful information, it can always be
manipulated.  I once checked the number
of arrests for an officer who'd spent little
more than a year on the street before
moving onward and upward.  I was
amazed to see the officer had made
nearly 300 arrests in that short period of
time.  It got better.  Nearly all the arrests
were high quality such as robbery,
burglary, rape, etc.  

The high arrest number and type
standing alone would be impressive;
however, under closer examination, the
time frame, quantity and quality revealed
the officer spent more time hanging
around the desk sergeant than working
the street.  When an arrest warrant
would arrive for a suspect previously
arrested on an unrelated charge, the
officer would simply sign for service of
the warrant and become the arresting
officer of record.  Like this officer, you
don't have to break any rules to
manipulate statistics as long as your
creativity and motive is not illegal.

High quality statistical compilation and
analysis can benefit a police department
in positive ways too many to describe,
but it all comes down to the quality of
the people doing the compiling and
analysing.
"Torture numbers, and
they'll confess to
anything."
 ~ Gregg Easterbrook
Let's say a new police chief is hired, and
he or she determines that crime for the
previous year was under reported.  Some
formula is concocted to increase selected
categories of crime.  Now the chief is
competing against an artificially higher
crime rate from the previous year.  
Fudging the old numbers upward is also
easier to justify than messing around
with ongoing crime reporting.

Statistical analysis is extremely important
if it's done under systems of real quality
control.  You'll often hear those two
words - quality control.  Too often,
they're just mere words uttered with no
actual system in existence to support
them.  Accurate statistics also require a
continuity of purpose.  You can't
continually change the criteria for
statistical tracking, and here's where
police departments fail badly.  A police
department is a political animal, and it is
constantly at the mercy of political winds
and whims.
"I have to yawn every time I see
academic research where crime
statistics are heavily relied upon to
validate theories and conclusions."
~ Barry M. Baker
While a decentralized police structure is
vital for the preservation of a democratic
republic, it performs poorly when it
comes to accurately documenting
crimes.  First, the UCR is voluntary;
although, enough police departments
report via UCR to make the system a
good measure of crime.  However, how
those police departments report crime
determines its accuracy, and here's
where the train goes off the tracks.

I'm certain there are some police
departments that maintain strict
adherence to UCR guidelines.  You might
even join a police department in that
category.  Of course, there's no way of
knowing; until, you're on the inside and
privy to the way things are done.  It's
really pretty simple.  You'll either be held
to a high standard for accurately
reporting crime, or you'll receive subtle or
overt pressure to ignore or downgrade
crime.

While you're the most important element
in crime reporting since it all starts with
you, crime results can still be manipulated
down the road by the formula junkies.  
The formulas are most useful in reducing
reported crime; however, they can be
used to increase crime as well.  
Police and
Statistics
Copyright © 2017  Barry M. Baker  
CareerPoliceOfficer.com
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