Last week, a New York City police commander and three officers were charged with manipulating crime statistics, and the New Paltz university police weighed in on the subject in regards to college campuses.
Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct commander and three officers were charged with tampering with statistics regarding grand larceny and car theft while misleading NYPD investigators, as well as failure to file a robbery complaint, raising questions about crime manipulation.
New Paltz University Police Officer Mike Puckett said the manipulation in Brooklyn was most likely politically driven, and those involved likely felt pressure from those above them to make the statistics change.
“It makes the public happy, and makes the public re-elect people that are in charge,” Puckett said about the data manipulation. “It makes the community look safer.”
Chief of Campus Police Raymond Bryant said the pressure the Brooklyn cops felt to manipulate the data was not unlike when colleges attempted to hide crime statistics for enrollment “20 or 30 years ago.”
“I think it’s ridiculous to even think about it,” Bryant said. “There is no rhyme or reason to it.”
Puckett agreed with Bryant and said that while there is no pressure from SUNY New Paltz’s administration, there is sometimes downward pressure from administration in other schools.
“I would say that in some schools there is [pressure], because if you are a private institution and you are trying to make your campus look safer than it is, you’re going to fudge stats. It happens at private schools, and it happens at public schools,” Puckett said. “But it doesn’t happen here.”
At New Paltz, campus police are mandated by the Right To Know law to file crimes in a certain way. According to Bryant, the campus police were audited twice within the last three years, and if a school is caught attempting to manipulate data, there is a $30,000 fine.
“There is a good reason not to do it other than ethically,” Bryant said.
Both Bryant and Puckett said what happened with Brooklyn’s 81st precinct tarnished the image of police to a certain extent, but they believe most people are aware that everyday cops are not the ones who were responsible for it.
As for trust between students and the police, Bryant said trust is important, but elusive.
“[New Paltz] has a population of about 8,000 individuals between the ages of about 17 and 20 that don’t like to be told ‘no.’” Bryant said. “When you tell someone ‘no,’ they no longer trust you.”
Bryant said that in his seven years as chief of the university police, he has tried improving ways to build trust by speaking with students, meeting with them and holding programs.
“Everyone loves the firemen, but no one likes the cops,” Bryant said. “It’s unfortunate but we work on it.”