Anybody who’s seen HBO’s The Wire is familiar with how police departments use arrest statistics to make funding decisions. I’ve learned recently that this is not artistic license. At least in NYC, arrest statistics play a central role in department funding and management decisions. According to a police officer acquaintance, stationhouse lieutenants regularly exhort officers to make more arrests to get statistics up regardless of whether they think charges will stick.
Interestingly, the city organization charged with overseeing the police, the CCRB, is operated on the same principle. The more cases of police misconduct closed over a given period the better, regardless of the quality of investigatory work or the outcome of cases referred to the PD for disciplinary action.
My question has two parts: For those of you involved in law enforcement, is this picture of the primacy of statistics an accurate one? And if it is, isn’t this a really stupid system for both the PD and the CCRB? I understand the desire to get a big picture view, but it seems like the sort of incentives this creates for bad policing or police-watching outweighs the advantage in objective partial information gained by relying on the numbers. What do you think?