The Chief
March 26, 2004

PBA, SBA Claim Some Precincts Fudge on Crime

NYPD Rips Motives, Denies Felonies Get Downgraded

By Mark Daly

Citing what they said were several instances of police commanders pressuring subordinates to falsify reports, the leaders of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association March 23 called for Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to perform a comprehensive audit of the way crimes are reported.

In addition to “a complete, honest and thorough audit of all the precincts’ crime statistics,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch also called for new procedures to check the power of commanding officers to downgrade reports of grand larceny and other crimes.

‘Cooking the Books’

“Some precinct commanders are cooking the books to make themselves look good.” Mr. Lynch said. “We’re hearing from our members across the city that these things are happening.”

“It raises safety issues, it creates a false sense of security, and overall, it’s not the right thing to do,” said SBA President Edward D. Mullins.

The NYPD accused the unions of slighting the achievements of their own members.

“Our officers have made New York the safest city in America. Only the PBA disagrees with that,” Said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Mayor Bloomberg added later that day. “I’m a bigger advocate, a fan, of the membership of the PBA than apparently the union leadership is.”

“We do not want anything to overshadow” the force’s accomplishments, responded Mr. Lynch. Precinct commanders faced with jumps in crime “are not getting the resources they deserve. The reason this is happening is we’re 5,000 police officers short from what we had in 1999.”

The unions named three commands where they said crime had been deliberately under-reported: Manhattan’s 10th Precinct, Police Service Area 9 in Queens and the 50 Precinct in the northwest Bronx.

Admit ‘10th’ Errors

The NYPD has only acknowledged errors in the 10th Precinct, which covers Chelsea and part of Hell’s Kitchen. Reports of major crimes in the area went from a 7-percent drop to a 15 percent rise last June after the department announced that 203 felonies had been wrongly downgraded to misdemeanors. Mr. Kelly launched an investigation of the precinct’s former commanding officer and a Sergeant who prepared crime reports.

In PSA 9, which covers several Housing Authority projects in Kew Gardens, the SBA in early March accused the commanding officer, Capt. Sheldon Howard, of downgrading felonies to misdemeanors and ordering officers to sign blank summonses so he could fill out the tickets himself.

“There was a policy the commander set that crime would not go up, and it was enforced by a fear factor,” Mr. Mullins said. “It’s a hostile atmosphere and no one wants to speak up about it.”

Interunion Hostility?

The NYPD and the Captains’ Endowment Association say the SBA is striking out at the Captain because of his dispute with Sgt. Ed Scott, a union delegate. Mr. Scott has accused Captain Howard of disciplining officers without a union delegate present.

The PBA has focused attention on the 50th Precinct, which covers Riverdale in The Bronx. The precinct’s reported crimes have gone up 11 percent in the three months since its commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Thomas DiRusso, left to take a more prestigious post in Brooklyn South Narcotics.

The police union accused Mr. DiRusso of pressuring supervisors to reduce crime reports, pointing to a case last year in which a Lieutenant, Bridget Banuchi, was disciplined for attempting to reclassify a grand larceny report as a misdemeanor. She tried to reduce the amount reported stolen from a drug-store to $600, from $1,815, and forged the store manager’s signature.

Delegate Shipped Out

A PBA delegate, Joe Anthony, was transferred from the precinct when he defended a Police Officer who refused to sign the report that the Lieutenant had altered. Mr. Anthony is suing the department.

After the change in the 50th Precinct statistics was highlighted in Newsday, the NYPD spokesman strongly defended Mr. DiRusso.

“This is just a campaign against a very decent, very effective commander, who has the guts to discipline anyone, including a delegate,” said, Mr. Browne, the NYPD spokesman.

He called the Newsday story “laughable” and accused the PBA and SBA of spreading “invented” stories to support their delegates. In the two times the 50th Precinct was audited by the NYPD’s Quality Assurance Team, Inspector DiRusso’s error rate in reporting crimes was lower than the city average, Mr. Browne said.

Even as he denounced fakery in the NYPD’s crime reports, Mr. Lynch took a somewhat conciliatory stance toward Mr. Kelly just one month after calling for the commissioner to resign over his handling of a police shooting in Brooklyn. Instead of calling for outside intervention, Mr. Lynch said Mr. Kelly should be given a chance to conduct his won review.

‘Maybe Acting on Own’

The PBA president declined to specify how high the alleged corruption went. “Maybe they’re doing it on their own,” he said. “Maybe they feel it’s an order from above.”

Mr. Browne said the NYPD had doubled its auditing of crime reports in the last three years, and found the error rate in classifying crimes had gone down.

PBA spokesman Al O’Leary said the union is looking for the department to add checks and balances to the power supervisors now have to downgrade and even void complaints. One idea is a hotline that victims can call when they believe their complaints haven’t been taken seriously.

“Crimes that aren’t reported aren’t audited,” added Mr. O’Leary. The union wants “a process that will prevent police managers from downgrading complaints and ignoring complaints.”