After a panel’s review of the Phoenix Police Department’s kidnapping statistics from 2008 those who repeatedly said the numbers were accurate may feel vindicated but critics of the statistics are still waiting for more.
In the end the report blames the faulty numbers on a bad data management system but the panel found no significant evidence that the numbers were inflated to get federal grants.
In fact, the panel found at least 668 incidents in 2008 that could have been classified as kidnappings.
City Councilman Sal DiCiccio of Ahwatukee Foothills agrees that the system is faulty but is still calling for an outside review into whether or not Public Safety Manager Jack Harris and City Manager David Cavazos should take some blame for the faulty numbers that were released to the public.
“The report doesn’t surprise me,” DiCiccio said. “You cannot investigate yourself and expect your report to come out any differently than this one did.”
The report found 38 percent of the 358 kidnapping cases in 2008 were incorrectly classified. The cause is a highly outdated system of recording cases, especially ones like kidnapping that may be complex and include more than one charge.
Statistics from 2007, 2009 and 2010 were not reviewed because the panel assumed the findings would be the same.
The report also states a lack of communication as the reason the city stood behind the kidnapping statistics from August of 2010 to January of 2011, when the public began to question the numbers.
Department leadership thought the investigative reports had been audited by the Crime Analysis Research Unit when in fact they had only checked data reports.
Mark Spencer, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said PLEA is waiting for the federal government’s report on the statistics.
“Our understanding is the Office of the Inspector General is coming into town by the end of the month,” Spencer said. “That’s the one that matters. It was their grant, it was their money, it’s their standards. They had access to all the witnesses, unlike the Phoenix panel.”
Spencer said PLEA’s main concern was that the numbers were presented to the federal government, the City Council and the public as all border-related kidnappings.
The report says after reviewing the federal grant proposals and Mayor Phil Gordon’s testimony before a U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, the inaccurate statistics were not explicitly said to be border-related.
“Both grant proposals highlighted concerns over increases in border-related crime as the reason the Phoenix Police Department sought federal funding,” the report says. “Neither proposal, however, stated that all of the kidnapping and home invasion incidents from 2008 were border related; in fact, no mention was made of a specific portion that may have been border-related.”
It’s unknown if any changes will come from the report. The panel suggested expediting the replacement of the data management system, PACE, which was scheduled to happen in 2013 and take three years to implement.
The panel also suggested letting past statistics stand and working towards making the system more efficient in the future.
“The Panel believes that, even though problems likely exist in kidnapping numbers in prior years, the department should focus its efforts toward the future rather than the past,” the report says. “Quite simply, there is far more value in addressing problems in the present and reducing their prevalence in the future, than there is in continuing to focus on the problems in the past.”