Flynn, Journal Sentinel both respond to MPD crime stats probe

CREATED May 23, 2012 - UPDATED: May 23, 2012

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MILWAUKEE - Is the Milwaukee Police Department misreporting crime numbers? 

That's the claim in a big Journal Sentinel investigation, but the police chief angrily refutes that as the paper defends its case.

This comes as state and local officials are asking for an audit of those MPD crime numbers.

The Journal Sentinel is reporting some 500 cases over the last three years were incorrectly reported to the FBI, resulting in a lower violent crime rate in the city.  The police chief admits they made errors, but adamantly denies any of it was intentional.

"Cops matter, deployments matter, neighborhoods are improving," said Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn Wednesday at a news conference.

The Journal Sentinel reports that had the cases from last year alone been coded properly, the city's violent crime rate would have gone up more than one percent -- instead of down more than 2 percent like Flynn claimed earlier this year.

"I believe the crime rate is down, I absolutely do," said Flynn.  "I have no reason to doubt it, I don't doubt the math either.  If we're up one percent in a given year you know what, one percent is within our margin of error."

Flynn admits mistakes were made, but says they're a product of human and computer error, not a political move to polish the numbers.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is backing the chief.  "If there are problems, the problems occurred as the officer on the beat was filling out the reports and that is something that we can work with," said Barrett.

The Journal Sentinel released the following statement from Executive Editor Martin Kaiser.

"Our stories on the misreporting of serious crimes as lesser offenses are the result of a thorough and meticulous investigation. The FBI agreed that the incidents we wrote about were misreported, as did outside criminal justice experts – and Milwaukee Police officials. Presenting a distorted view of crime in the city does not serve the public.

"We will continue to seek access to additional records to provide a complete view of crime patterns, and to sort out why these errors occurred. So far, we have only had access to about 20% of total reported incidents – the ones reviewed by prosecutors. We cannot compare the data to a previous period in Milwaukee in part because the department has resisted our efforts to obtain public documents. Police and city officials should expedite full release of the information so the public knows the truth behind their numbers."

TODAY'S TMJ4, Newsradio 620 WTMJ and the Journal Sentinel are all owned by Journal Communications.

The chief says they are working to fix these errors.  That includes an audit by his department and one by the FBI.