The FBI's UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) has been
around for a very, very long time.  Police
departments are not required by law to report crime
using UCR; however, most departments, including
all the major police departments in the nation, use
the UCR to report crime.

The importance of UCR cannot be overestimated.  
Every person or organization having any interest in
crime, i.e., personal, political, organizational,
educational, community, etc., uses or references
the information provided by UCR.

UCR is unique, because it is a relatively simple
administrative reporting system that is compatible
to incompatible parts.  I need to explain this one.  
Every state in the nation has its own statute law
and terminology to describe criminal offenses.  An
awful lot of people, including police officers, keep
trying to apply, compare, or intertwine the criteria
and classifications in UCR with their own state's
criminal statutes and terminology.  This is a fool's
errand.  You'll be well ahead of the game if, even
before you become a police officer, you come to
understand that UCR crime classifications have
absolutely nothing to do with how crimes are
identified, classified, or prosecuted under your
state's criminal code or statutes.
Since any kind of reporting system, especially one
which is so widely misunderstood, can be
manipulated and its original purpose corrupted, a
real quality control system must be in place to
prevent corruption.  When it comes to UCR, you, as
a police officer, will be the first, and most important,
factor in determining the quality of your
department's crime reporting system, and the
validity of its UCR classifications.  The next most
important factor will be your sergeant who reviews
and approves your reports.

In just one police department – if every police
officer and every sergeant were well educated in
UCR classifications, and there was no pressure from
any quarter to downgrade crime, you'd have one
fine and accurate crime reporting system.  Okay...
you can laugh at this point since no such police
department exists, ever did, or ever will.  Every time
something gets screwed up, and it's exposed, you
always hear people wail about changing things and
ensuring accountability.  While changes usually
occur, accountability is usually, as usual, lost in the

Here's what many forget.  Accountability can only
exist when real quality control is being practiced
continuously – remember, continuously means
without interruption!  What is real quality control?  
It's people... people watching people.  The only way
to ensure your maximum efficiency, and that of
your sergeant, is your sure understanding that
every crime report you submit will undergo a final
review process by people trained for the singular
purpose of properly identifying and classifying the
crime you're reporting.

Let's say you join a police department that has a
final review process in place.  You're still going to
have police officers and supervisors who will try to
beat the process.  The supervisor will set the stage
for sub-standard reporting, and those police
officers who are willing to please will substitute their
integrity with what they view as clever deception.
Here's an example of a not so clever deception.  An
officer is dispatched to a call for attempted
burglary.  Remember, an attempted burglary is
classified as a Part I crime while a simple destruction
of property or malicious destruction is insignificant
in the numbers game.  Imagine yourself as the
trained reviewer who ultimately receives this
officer's report of the incident.  The report incident
is labeled as Malicious Destruction.  The narrative
portion of the report basically states the following:

"The rear door of [address] was damaged by
person(s) unknown by unknown means.  No entry
was gained."

The first thing you'll notice about this report is the
absence of a description of the damage to the
door.  Was the damage in the form of graffiti
scratched into or painted on the door, or was the
damage a result of an attempt to gain entry into
the building?  Since the nature of the damage is an
all important element in classifying this incident, you
return the report to the officer requiring a detailed
description of the "damage."

Now, in this incident scenario, the officer has
obviously downgraded the crime.  The door is metal
mounted in a metal frame.  The door knob is broken
off and numerous pry marks appear around the lock
mechanism and door frame.  While no entry was
gained, the visible and obvious physical evidence
screams attempted burglary.

When the officer receives the returned report, that
officer has a very simple choice to make.  Either
upgrade the incident to Attempted Burglary with a
proper description of the damage, or... lie.  You
might ask, "Why didn't the sergeant recognize this
incomplete report and direct the officer to properly
classify the incident?"  While a competent
supervisor would, an incompetent one, or one more
interested in keeping crime numbers low, would
not.  That's why a final review process is so
important in ensuring the integrity of a police
department's crime reporting system.

The Second Element of Quality

While a final review process is the most important
quality control element for a department's crime
reporting system, an accompanying system of call
follow-up can have great positive effect.  When a
crime is reported via 911, the CAD (computer aided
dispatch) text frequently has a fair amount of detail
in describing the crime being reported.  Again,
people become the key element in this process.

This time, you're assigned to a unit responsible for
checking Part I crimes reported via 911.  You're
reviewing CAD reports and comparing them with the
final police report. You're reading the CAD report of
an armed robbery.  The 911 operator obtained
complete victim information and a brief, but good,
description of the event.  The CAD's final
disposition raises a red flag when you see that the
responding officer orally coded the call as

Now, the unfounded code could be legitimate.  
Perhaps the officer was unable to locate the victim.  
You have a telephone number for the victim, and
you make contact with the victim.  The victim tells
you he reported the crime to a police officer, and,
as far as he knows, the officer wrote a report of the
crime.  You have the victim describe the entire event
to you, and you determine that the reported crime
contains all the elements of an armed robbery.

In this scenario, if your unit is not part of your
department's Internal Affairs Division, you would
forward this Quality Control Incident to your IAD for
further investigation.  While this scenario has
probably caught a police officer making a false
report, catching cops screwing up is not the primary
goal of this form of quality control.  The primary
goal is making police officers and supervisors realize
the high probably of getting caught if they don't
take their reporting responsibilities seriously.  
There's an additional benefit to this component of
quality control.  It will definitely lighten the work
load on the first component... the final review
Quality Control
"UCR crime classifications have absolutely
nothing to do with how crimes are identified,
classified, or prosecuted under your state's
criminal code or statutes." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker