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by Peter Moskos

December 30, 2015

Bratton calls out Kelly for calling out Bratton! It's an NYPD smackdown!

This Kelly vs Bratton feud has been simmering in the background for a little while.

But then when Kelly accused Bratton of cooking the books (something Kelly should be familiar with, since book-cooking constantly flared up during his reign)? Well, I'll just sit back and enjoy the fight.

And here's an insiders' tip: the good money is on Bratton.

The NYPD took Kelly seriously enough to release an official rebuttal. And hell, Kelly is the former NYPD commissioner. He should be taken seriously.

Now I will admit my initial thought on Kelly's accusations: it sure is odd this year that shootings are down and homicides are up. How does that happen? What are the odds? So could Kelly be on to something?!

Turns out: No.

In the far corner, the former champion, the man who must be in charge, Raymond Kelly. He's the consummate micro manager, the marine, and the man would wouldn't let cops administer a heroin antidote (not on his watch). Kelly completely closed the department to outside researchers, transparency be damned! But he kept crime down and avoided a big scandal. (Stop, question, and frisk was not a scandal so much as a strategy.)

I don't think Kelly did a bad job. Not at all. But I was happy to see him go. At some level I just don't like him. Substantively his conservative micromanaging was insane. Everything transfer and shift of manpower had to go through him. His emphasis on stats led to a lot of problems.

The fact that below I use week-old data copied from a PDF file is entirely Kelly's fault. And the fact that he could be so closed, on idiotic principle, even with Mike "open data" Bloomberg as mayor? It was all amazing. Kelly ran the department like nobody has ever been allowed to run that department. For 12 years, he was the boss.

Murders did drop from a low 587 to an amazingly low 334. The last two years of his reign saw a 35 percent reduction in killings(!). And nobody took credit for it. Kelly didn't want to take credit for a crime drop at the exact moment it was coinciding with a massive drop in stops, since each and every one of those stops, so he said, was absolutely necessary to prevent a rise in homicides. And Kelly's opponents sure didn't want to give the big bad NYPD credit for anything at all. So we had the largest drop in homicides since the mid 1990s... and nobody noticed.

Kelly ran the NYPD, something Bloomberg didn't want to do. But Bratton is doing what De Blasio can't do. De Blasio needs Bratton a lot more than Bloomberg needed Kelly, and also much more than Bratton needs de Blasio.

So in this corner, the current champion, William Bratton. He's a bit more polished, a bit more educated, some might even say... smarter. Bratton is also conservative, mind you, but in a more intellectual way. Bratton understands the politics of policing. Bratton is also more open to transparency and sharing data. The fact that the same limited NYPD Compstat data is available in 2015 in spreadsheet form? Well, that's progress, I guess. (But there's no reason he couldn't have (Now can we please get open crime data like this.)

I like Bratton because of his track record, his intelligence, and his support and understanding of Broken Windows policing. Also Bratton, unlike Kelly, understands why, other things being equal, it's better if people don't hate the police. Kelly really didn't give a shit what people thought. He knew he was doing a good job. That was enough.

I'll give Kelly the benefit of the doubt and not doubt his motives. Kelly probably really believes what he's saying. Unlike some former commissioners, at least Kelly is not a crook. Now that he's not in charge, he knows things must be going to hell. Besides, people are constantly telling him things are going to hell.

Kelly always surrounded himself with yes-men. He wasn't a micromanager because he trusted others. And now you've got a bunch of old friends who remain loyal to him. Cops hate de Blasio and everything happening right now (the latter is a constant, by the way, no matter what is happening). And maybe there was actually a case of a shooting that was downgraded. It happens. So these old buddies get together with Kelly and, over a soda water, tell him all the bad that is happening. Kelly believes it to be God's truth, since it's coming from his people. His loyal people.

So why did Kelly do this? Probably not just to sell books. Though maybe Kelly found out he enjoys talking to the press. Those with big egos tend to like seeing themselves on the tee-vee.

But back to the issue at hand. How do you tell if shooting victims aren't been counted?

I thought I would look for smoke in the ratio of homicide to shooting victims. But to find out which of the NYC homicide victims were shot, you have to go the UCR data (the FBI's Uniform Crime Report). So I did that. After a fun couple of hours on SPSS, I got the answer. For the past 15 years, about 60 percent of homicide victims are shot. It hasn't changed much. No smoking gun.

Between 1999 and 2013 (but excluding 2006 and 2008, for UCR data quality reasons. And keep in mind, if you run the numbers, the UCR undercounts homicides by about 5 percent because it looks at incidents. Like everybody else, I ignored this and assumed a constant error rate) approximately 60 percent of homicide victims were shot. But I already told you that. But it's worth pointing out that this number remains pretty consistent over these years, which I was not expecting. And over these years, it turns out the odds of dying if you're shot in NYC is about 15 percent (which is substantially lower than I thought it was. Much lower).

In other words, in 2013 there were 334 people killed in NYC, about 195 of those were shot (188 incidents recorded by the UCR plus a few multiple homicides). There were 1,300 shooting victims, according to the NYPD, people with gunshot wounds.

Now we, the UCR, doesn't yet have gunshot deaths from 2014, much less 2015. (Though I'm sure the NYPD does, now about that openness...)

We do have shooting victims and total homicides recording by the NYPD (the former is surprisingly difficult to tease from the UCR, which is yet another UCR problem).

If the number of shooting victims were being artificially reduced, one would expect the ratio of shooting victims to total homicides to be way down this year. And it is. But just a bit: to 3.9:1 from 4.2:1 in 2014. But it turns out that 2014 is the odd year, not this year. 4.2 is the highest that ratio has ever been. It was 3.9 also in 2012 and 2013. The average over the past 15 years in 3.4. The ratio is steadily increasing, probably due to better medical care. Maybe hospital closings affect this rate. Or maybe it's just statistical variance (AKA: bad luck). But no, the numbers don't look funny this year.

Anybody still with me? One quick double-check: last year (2014) compared to the previous year (2013) the number of shootings should be down and homicides up (the opposite of this year). And yes, indeed, that is the case.

Look at the "year to date" columns for the two years and the rows "homicide" and "shooting vic."

I'm betting on Bratton.

Update: Gothamist jumps into the ring with a folding chair! And Bratton hits again in the Daily News. And the Inspector General, that's the new oversight department under the Department of Investigations that is still in search of institutional meaning, stays mum.)


Concerned citizen said...

Prof. Moskos,

This is the Kelly accusation that caught my eye:

"...wounds sustained by a victim who refuses to cooperate with a police investigation have been recorded as self-inflicted."

Moskos said...

I can imagine somebody being completely uncooperative and police saying, "So you shot yourself?!" A few more testy exchanges and that is what it became. Even if true, hardly a systemic problem.

bacchys said...

Detaining people for "being a fucking mutt" isn't a strategy. It's a violation of the Constitution.

Kelly shouldn't be allowed to hold a job in this country.