Statistics, and other lies

Bob S has a great post on crime statistics, and on what appears to be falsification of those statistics by Dallas PD, and by one of Brooklyn precincts. In Dallas, apparently, some aggravated assaults are reported as lesser offenses, and in Brooklyn, there were reported cases of classifying felonies as misdemeanors and refusing to take complaints from victims.

Doesn’t surprise me one bit. If anything, I’m surprised that we don’t see more news like this from other PDs. I don’t think that this is some sort of  conspiracy to make gun laws (or some other laws) look good or bad. This seems to be a classic sign of a management problem:

As soon as any statistic starts getting used to measure people’s or department’s efficiency, and especially if it affects salaries or public image, some people will focus less on doing their job, and more on “gaming” the statistic. And, of course, reliability of said statistic starts circling the drain. Compensating for this is not an easy task. Basically, whoever is managing by statistics, has to identify the bad behaviors, add statistics that measure them, and replace the original statistic, as a performance measurement instrument, with an index that combines the original statistic and the additional statistics that measure the bad behaviors. This can become very complex.

Apparently some PDs either don’t understand this, or choose to ignore it.

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Published in: on February 4, 2010 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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