New York Daily News

July 17, 2015, 2:45 PMM

  

 

Nineteen Bronx cops hit with administrative charges for downgrading crime reports: officials 

BY ROCCO PARASCANDOLA, BARRY PADDOCK

JEFF BACHNER/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The cops, from the 40th Precinct in the Bronx, downgraded more than 50 criminal reports during a four-month stretch in 2014, officials said Friday.

Cops are cooking the books in the Bronx.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton hammered 19 officers in a South Bronx precinct after an internal audit found they tampered with dozens of crime reports last year. The manipulation of the reports led to an inflated drop in crime, officials revealed on Friday.

“These disciplinary charges are strict but fair,” Bratton said in a statement. “The purposeful misrepresentation of crime data is rare but nevertheless unacceptable.”

The administrative charges filed by the NYPD’s Department Advocate’s Office are likely to include official misconduct and filing a false instrument. Punishment could range from loss of vacation days to termination.

Those facing possible discipline are assigned to the 40th Precinct. The officers include one lieutenant, eight sergeants, nine police officers and one detective. The precinct’s commanding officer was transferred from his post because of the findings.

Precinct commanders, according to union leaders, are pressured at CompStat meetings to produce reductions in crime. The commanders then push the cops to produce the crime drops by any means necessary. The NYPD’s CompStat system uses data analysis to identify spikes in crime.

The audit by the NYPD’s Quality Assurance Division examined 1,558 complaint reports filed during a four-month stretch of 2014, along with 911 calls and radio runs. Investigators found problems in 55 cases.

More than 200 crime victims were interviewed as part of the probe. Fewer than 10 incidents involved crime victims whose complaints were never recorded. Most of the incidents involved major crimes being downgraded to misdemeanor assault or other lesser offenses.

All 55 incidents will now be properly recorded, police said. The precinct’s supposed 14% decline in crime last year will be adjusted to an 11.4% drop.

Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said the downgrading of crimes has been a systemic problem in the NYPD for many years. And he suggested that officers who engage in the process are generally following the orders of bosses who are pressured to produce numbers that show they’re driving down crime.

But in a direct challenge to the city’s top cop, Mullins questioned why news of the audit was released on Friday when the investigation had been going on since last year.

“I’m not surprised, but disappointed by the timing of Commissioner Bratton’s press release on the one-year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner,” he said, referring to the 43-year-old Staten Island man who died in the clutches of a police chokehold. “This is an obvious ploy to show the department’s efforts for reform on the backs of hardworking officers.”

Mayor de Blasio gave Bratton props.

“The swift action taken by the NYPD is testament to the department's commitment to transparency,” said a mayoral spokeswoman.

TODD MAISEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the charges were “strict but fair.”

The probe was launched after an anonymous complaint in August, officials said.

Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, vowed to defend the accused cops.

“Police officers follow the dictates of their bosses,” Lynch said, in lockstep with Mullins. “Management has consistently hammered police officers to reduce felonies to misdemeanors.”

Bratton created a Risk Management Bureau in March with a Quality Assurance Division that audits the NYPD’s 98 commands twice a year.

“The accuracy of our numbers must be unquestionable,” Bratton said.

The 40th precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson, is not facing charges but was transferred to the Organized Crime Control Bureau, police said.

“He’s well respected,” said Captains Endowment Association President Roy Richter. “He’s been doing a good job.”

Officials said there was no evidence Johnson was aware of the shenanigans, but that an audit completed just before he took control of the precinct in April 2014 found just five faulty crime reports, likely from human error.

“This happened on the commanding officer’s watch,” said Larry Byrne, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters. “He should have known.”

Investigators will now scrutinize how complaints were handled during Johnson’s previous gig as head of the 49th precinct.

Just last month, Lorenzo was quoted on an NYPD website praising a poll showing an uptick in the trust young men in the South Bronx placed in the department.

"We've done a lot to get the community to work together," Johnson said of the poll results. "I'm glad to see that the numbers are going up."

With Kerry Burke

rparascandola@nydailynews.com