New York Daily News

March  23, 2004

City, police union square off over crime-drop stats

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Union and city officials squared off Tuesday over accusations that police precinct commanders have doctored statistics to preserve the NYPD’s record of driving down serious crime.

The sparring began at a Manhattan news conference, where Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, called for a citywide audit of NYPD crime statistics. He cited news reports that commanders in two precincts — under pressure from statistic-obsessed brass — had downgraded or disregarded reported crimes.

Commanders “are forced to falsify stats in order to maintain the appearance of a drastic reduction in crime,” Lynch said. City officials denied the charge.

The dispute centers on a dramatic, decade-long decline in reports of murder, assaults, robberies and other serious offenses to levels not seen since the 1960s. That record has been routinely used by City Hall to tout New York as “the safest city in America” — and by the PBA to argue for better pay amid an ongoing contract dispute.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg accused Lynch of undermining his own membership’s stellar crime-fighting record by shifting gears and questioning the reliability of the statistics.

“I’m a bigger advocate, a fan, of the members of the PBA than apparently the union leadership is,” he said.

It was reported Monday that supervisors in a Bronx precinct may have intentionally misclassified felonies as misdemeanors. Similar allegations arose last year in a precinct in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea.

Union officials claimed that PBA members from other precincts have told union leaders that they were “conditioned” to falsify records.

The PBA stopped short of accusing Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly or other NYPD officials of condoning fraud. Instead, union leaders suggested that individual commanders wanted to protect their careers and conceal the impact of a cut in patrol size.

Police officials insist that routine internal audits have revealed no pattern of falsifying statistics.

Paul Browne, the department’s top spokesman, called it “baffling that a police union would assert that its own members are failing to suppress crime as effectively as we know they are.”

A disgruntled PBA delegate who was disciplined for insubordination was the source of the allegations in the Bronx precinct, Browne said.

“After a delegate is disciplined for cause, the union invented stories of crime data suppression,” he said.

The PBA’s 22,000 members have been working without a contract. Union officials claim they are among the lowest-paid officers in urban areas.