More than a year after revelations in this newspaper and others media outlets about police under-reporting of crime complaints, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has taken the unusual step of actually reminding cops that they can’t ignore civilians who want to report a crime.
A department order issued at the end of last week tells cops they have to take complaints, and they can’t send folks to another precinct or another police agency, or go back to the scene of a crime and then call 911, or any of the other dodges that have evolved over the past ten years.
Moreover, Kelly tells them they can’t look at other factors, like a crime victim’s level of cooperation, is deciding whether or not to take a complaint. You can’t just decide a crime victim is being uncooperative and use that to ignore the complaint, he orders. Nor can they make a decision based on whether they think prosecutors would pursue a case, or reclassify a crime. Nor can they make a decision based on the liklihood of making an arrest. In addition, police officers can’t delay filing a complaint for any reason.
The NYPD won’t ever admit it, but the Voice’s series “The NYPD Tapes,” mentioned all of these unethical methods of avoiding the taking of complaints in its five part series published in 2010, based on exclusively obtained recordings made by Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft. That it took Kelly so long to send this message to his officers is puzzling.
Maybe it has something to do with his three-member crime statistics panel of former federal prosecutors, which was supposed to release the results of its probe back in June, and is now six months delayed. (One of the member, Robert Morvillo, passed away last month.)
What’s the significance of the order? Well, Kelly actually addresses crime complaint reporting, but by calling it “routine,” as he did in a New York Daily News article, seems to undercut the impact of the order. And his spokesman Paul Browne claimed the order had nothing to do with concerns about under-reporting of crime.
And we wonder, how much good will a simple reminder do?
The longtime chronicler of NYPD politics, Leonard Levitt, notes, “Kelly’s memo underscores the giant hole in the cornerstone of supposed NYPD successes in lowering crime over the past decade…It indicates that for the past eight years, Kelly has refused to tackle a widespread, systemic problem, one that some say he has encouraged by promoting only commanders who produced low crime statistics.”