Wall Street Journal
Updated July 17, 2015 8:35 p.m.


NYPD Officers Misrepresented Crime Figures, Commissioner Says

Police union says it will ‘vigorously defend’ its members

By PERVAIZ SHALLWANI

ANDREW LAMBERSON FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The 40th precinct in the Bronx.

Nineteen New York City police officers from a Bronx precinct face disciplinary charges after an investigation found they misrepresented statistics, leading to an inaccurately reported drop in the crime rate, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Friday.

An audit of statistics was ordered after an anonymous tipster told the New York Police Department that officers were downgrading the severity of crimes in the 40th precinct, which covers the southernmost section of the Bronx, two senior police officials said.

Investigators with a departmental risk-and-compliance unit found that officers misrepresented 55 crimes in categories including petit larceny, lost property, misdemeanor assault, criminal mischief and criminal trespass.

Their actions pushed the precinct’s reported crime drop for 2014 about 2.5% lower.

The audit covered radio-call responses as well as 1,558 complaints from May through August in 2014.

As a result of the audit, the 55 crimes were reclassified, making the precinct’s crime decrease 11.4% instead of 14%, Mr. Bratton said.

While questions about officers downgrading crimes have surfaced for years, Mr. Bratton called the instance “rare, but nevertheless unacceptable.”

Mr. Bratton brought disciplinary charges against one lieutenant, eight sergeants, nine police officers and one detective.

Patrick Lynch, the head of union that represents NYPD officers, said department leaders had “consistently hammered police officers to reduce felonies to misdemeanors” and the officers, if found to have misrepresented the statistics, were simply following orders.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called Mr. Bratton’s actions a “testament to the department’s commitment to transparency and accountability.”

Civil-rights advocates called the accusations troubling.

“Any manipulation of police statistics is a serious matter, and the manipulation of crime statistics is particularly serious,” said Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We welcome any initiative that will improve the integrity of NYPD figures.”

Mr. Lynch said his union would “vigorously defend” its members.

The NYPD conducts audits twice each year in all its precincts. Typically, the audits find a handful of instances that are considered clerical mistakes, officials said. A regular audit earlier in 2014 didn’t reveal any problems in the 40th precinct.

The tip came weeks after Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson was named commanding officer of the precinct in April 2014, officials said.

Inspector Johnson wasn’t charged but was transferred from the precinct as a result of the investigation, Mr. Bratton said.

Investigators don’t believe the inspector knew that members of his team were misclassifying crimes, but he was moved because they happened under his watch, one official said.

Inspector Johnson, who is well-regarded in the department, has led several commands in the city, most recently the 49th precinct in the Bronx.

Investigators are looking to see if any basis exists for an investigation of other commands he has led, but at this point they don’t have any reason to believe there is any.

Roy Richter, the head of the union that represents Inspector Johnson, noted 99.6% of the complaints reviewed as part of the audit were “found to be accurate.”

“It’s a decision based on a review of 1,500 crime complaints,” Mr. Richter added. “It seems a little sudden and unusual.”

Write to Pervaiz Shallwani at pervaiz.shallwani@wsj.com