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System Blamed For BSO Troubles

Miami Herald, Sept. 21, 2004

By Wanda J. DeMarzo

Although Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne has made widespread reforms in the way his agency reports crime, he continues to use an intense reporting system that some deputies claim pressured them into making false reports.

The Broward state attorney's office launched an investigation last October. Attorneys for several deputies say they expect prosecutors to indict some low- and mid-level deputies in the coming days or weeks, on charges related to falsifying those reports.

Five months ago, Jenne publicly stated some of his deputies were inaccurately clearing cases, when the cases were not solved.

Critics from inside the department say the inflated numbers were done to bolster BSO's image in the eyes of the public.

Jenne has initiated a number of changes that he says will block attempts to fudge numbers. But he has long stood by an accountability system called Powertrac that maps crime and holds district-level supervisors responsible for the communities they supervise.

Deputies and supervisors have told The Herald that pressure from the top to keep statistics down has led to false reporting.

Criminal justice experts question Jenne's heavy reliance on statistics, but say programs like Powertrac have been successful around the country in solving crime and helping to identify areas needing more law enforcement attention.

"If you put enough pressure on the commanders and you make it consequential, you introduce a level of fear," said Stephen D. Mastrofski, a professor at George Mason University in Manassas, Va. "And this is what happens, the numbers change."

Mastrofski has co-authored articles and books about CompStat -- an accountability program similar to Powertrac -- for the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit agency that works to improve policing methods.

Mastrofski and a team of researchers studied three police departments that used CompStat. They found a common thread in the study released in 2003: CompStat puts pressure on middle managers and commanders.

"Ideally, when [commanders] feel the heat, they bring the crime down, but water always finds the easiest path and so do people," Mastrofski said. "If you put enough pressure on them, you will find that some will cheat."

Last week, Kenneth Duggar, chief of District 7, which includes Tamarac, came under fire for increased aggravated assaults in his district. In 2003, the district reported 24 aggravated assaults. In the same period this year, the district reported 76.

"The chief was directed to take another look at the aggravated assaults that have occurred in the command . . . there is a 216 percent increase over last year. The chief is to take a look at 'why' there is an increase and what preventive measures the command will be putting in place," states a Powertrac memo dated Sept. 14.

Jenne issued the directive at a weekly Powertrac session.

Accountability programs are good, but there are disadvantages, Mastrofski said.

"Most of the people running programs like CompStat have very little knowledge of crime analysis. They may be officers, but more often than not, they play 'whack a mole, " Mastrofski said.

Crime spikes in one area, and the command staff thinks, "whack it," Mastrofski said.

Close scrutiny of BSO's reporting methods probably has deputies accurately reporting crimes they are called to investigate, said John Cochran, assistant chairman of the criminology department at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The first six months of this year, BSO's crime rate increased 44 percent, compared to last year.

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Updated: Tuesday, 30-Jun-2009 14:38:22 PDT   ~   Accessed: 6387 times
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