The Louisville Metro Police Department has reversed course and started publishing its weekly “Compstat” crime reports on the department’s transparency page, a month after denying Insider Louisville’s request for such records.
The weekly Compstat reports have much more detailed crime statistics than the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) that LMPD complies, sends to the FBI and publishes each month, listing the totals of 25 different categories of crime within each individual beat of the eight police divisions, as well as the percentage increase or decrease in each crime from that date in the previous year.
Several Metro Council members had criticized LMPD for not releasing such figures to the public, with some going so far as to claim this was an attempt to shield the public from seeing an increase in crime — beyond the record-high homicide rate — or the department’s manipulation of statistics before being entered into the public UCR.
In the wake of Metro Council passing a resolution on Aug. 10 expressing no confidence in Chief Steve Conrad — partially based on concerns over LMPD’s lack of transparency with that body — LMPD officials and the office of Mayor Greg Fischer vigorously denied accusations that crime statistics were being manipulated. However, LMPD also refused to release the Compstat reports, with spokeswoman Alicia Smiley telling IL in August that these were considered “preliminary data” and “an internal working document/draft that is fluid and ever-changing,” which made them exempt from the Kentucky Open Records Act.
However, following his speech at the Rotary Club on Sept. 7, Chief Conrad told IL that LMPD had just decided to start posting the Compstat reports on its transparency page, noting that they now include a two-page disclaimer about the preliminary nature of those statistics.
“Preliminary information is a reason under open records (law) to deny access,” said Conrad. “But after we’ve looked at this, it’s like ‘man, get it out there.’ As long as it’s got the appropriate disclaimers, get it out there.”
The Compstat report disclaimer notes that its data includes calls for service in crime categories that may not have been investigated beyond an initial report, or may upon further investigation be determined to have been a different type of crime or no crime at all. Also, some of the Compstat data can be found on the LMPD’s crime mapping page for a limited period of time, as well as raw data in a spreadsheet file on the city’s open data portal, but the Compstat reports are concise and provide the context of how the crime rate has changed over the previous year.
Conrad pointed out that “what caused a lot of confusion” was how the many Compstat crime categories differed from the eight broad categories of the monthly UCR — which is required by the FBI of all law enforcement agencies for conformity — as “those numbers may change… in terms of the quality control that we do, as reports go through our records review.”
“There were accusations that there was some manipulation going on between those weekly reports and the monthly reports,” said Conrad. “Not at all. The information that is in those weekly reports does feed into the UCR, it’s just presented in a more summarized fashion. And that is how police departments measure their crime all across the country.”
As Metro Council members debated the no-confidence vote against Conrad in August, several — including Democrats Brent Ackerson and David James, and Republicans Julie Denton and James Peden — accused LMPD leadership of withholding the “real” crime stats in the Compstat report and manipulating the numbers reported publicly in the UCR to show that overall crime was going down from last year.
Before the no-confidence resolution was approved, James, Ackerson and James all told IL that the Compstat reports should be released to the public just like the UCR, saying that LMPD’s refusal to do so showed the department had something to hide.
“They’re hiding numbers,” said James, when asked at the time why the reports weren’t being released. “If they truly believe in transparency, they could put in a caveat that says these numbers may be adjusted later… I would like to know if I were a citizen what exactly was going on in my neighborhood.”
Calling the stats in the Compstat report the “true” and “accurate” crime data, Ackerson asked: “Is there something secret or proprietary about that? No, let the truth be told. And the only reason not to let that data out is you’re afraid it will tell the story that you don’t want told… My suspicion is that if by chance the FBI (UCR report) didn’t paint a rosier picture than the Compstat, I think the administration would put out the Compstat data. They’ll put out the one that tells the best story that makes people feel good.”
Denton was even more blunt, saying that LMPD didn’t make the Compstat reports public “because they’re cooking the books.”
“They’re manipulating the data so that it plays into the mayor’s whole scam that he’s pulling on the city, that we’re this compassionate city,” said Denton. “Because compassionate cities don’t kill each other. And until this chief and this mayor recognize crime for what it is in this city, you can’t start solving the problem.”
Beyond accusations of stats being manipulated from Compstat to UCR, Denton claimed she had spoken with “way too many police officers, too many sergeants, who say they’re directed to downgrade things so that they stats don’t look as bad. And they know that if they don’t downgrade and they don’t re-categorize or reclassify, that there’s trouble for them… So people are just trying to stay out of trouble.”
James — a former LMPD officer — also said he was told by current officers that there was “a concerted, intentional effort” by leadership to manipulate crime data. Following an Aug. 1 press conference in which Conrad and Fischer stated that both violent crime and property crime were down from last year — while conceding a 20 percent increase from the previous year’s record-high homicide total — James said that he “probably had at least seven officers contact me that day, expressing their frustration… Every day I’ve run into an officer since then, and they’re like ‘this is a bunch of bulls***.’ ”
Chris Poynter, the spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer, called these allegations of LMPD crime data manipulation from council members at the time “utterly ridiculous,” saying that “to claim that the police chief manipulated crime (data) is an insult to every officer working the beat.” Asked if he thought those council members had a political motive, Poynter replied, “I think some of the council members have motives beyond public safety.”
Responding to the allegations of manipulation in August, Lt. Col. Robert Schroeder, the assistant police chief of LMPD, told IL that the UCR submitted to the FBI goes through a detailed review process of the Data Integrity Unit, a team of civilian employees “who are experts in the federal guidelines” and “holds LMPD strictly accountable for meeting the reporting guidelines.”
Noting that the crime reports are also reviewed by investigation detectives, commanding officers and crime analysts of LMPD, Schroeder added that “the implication that LMPD is falsifying reports would require that multiple layers of employees set aside their integrity and commitment to the Louisville community.”
Asked about the accusations of manipulating crime stats at the Rotary Club this month, Conrad said: “That’s something we would never do. We hold our integrity to be something that is very, very important to all of us. We have been incredibly transparent with what has happened in our community.”
Councilman James tells IL that he is “extremely pleased” that LMPD has reversed course and decided to publish the weekly Compstat reports online, adding: “I hope they are trying to actually move forward with transparency as they state on their website. This is a good step in the right direction, with many steps to go.”
According to the most recently published Compstat report on crimes through Sept. 9, homicides within LMPD’s jurisdiction were up slightly from that same period last year — 82 this year, compared to 80 in 2016 — total violent crimes were down 2.7 percent and total property crimes were down 7.1 percent. The Compstat report also shows that robberies were down 17 percent, burglaries down 5.5 percent, auto theft down 5.1 percent and total theft down 8.1 percent. While total assaults went down slightly, aggravated assaults increased by 6.3 percent.
In his Rotary Cub speech, Conrad said that homicides — which were far outpacing 2016’s record high earlier this year — were starting to slow down, nearly matching the 80 homicides from that date last year. Mayor Fischer stated in his speech at the same event that the city was now “heading in the right direction when it comes to crime reduction,” and that his support for Chief Conrad “never wavered” as Metro Council pushed forward with its no-confidence resolution.
According to LMPD spokesman Dwight Mitchell, as of Tuesday the pace of homicides in Louisville has finally dipped below that of last year, as the city’s current number of homicides is 83, compared to 84 on this date last year.