Journal Sentinel reporter defends MPD crime data probe

CREATED Jun 13, 2012 - UPDATED: Jun 13, 2012

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Click here to listen to Poston's interview with Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Wisconsin's Afternoon News.

MILWAUKEE- Journal Sentinel reporter Ben Poston is defending himself against attacks launched by Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn on Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Midday with Charlie Sykes," against Poston and the paper from Wednesday morning.

This is latest battle in the sparring between Milwaukee police and the Journal Sentinel over Milwaukee Police Department's misreporting of crime stats.  Flynn came after Poston after he wrote Tuesday that MPD staff routinely changed crime codes.

The original investigation found more than 500 cases in which serious assaults were misclassified as lesser offenses.

Flynn told Sykes the Journal Sentinel's investigation, including Poston's articles, of the department's reporting of crime data is "a campaign of lies and omission."

"Poston himself has acknowledged to us that he has found upward coding errors," said Flynn.

"No, I did not," said Poston to John Mercure on Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Wisconsin's Afternoon News Wednesday afternoon.  "In my research I didn't find (upcoding errors)."

According to Flynn, "I believe there is an effort to mislead the public about crime in this city, but it's not us.  It's the Journal Sentinel."

Poston said that police, over the past three weeks, haven't challenged any of the core findings of the Journal Sentinel's investigation.  Poston cited Police Chief Flynn's press conference as evidence that MPD isn't debating the merits of the investigation.

"I think anytime you write a story about a government agency that's negative or raises issues with how they do their jobs, they are going to respond and defend their agency," said Poston.  "I believe that is what Chief Flynn is doing."

John Mercure asked Poston if he would stand by all of his reporting.  "Yes, absolutely," declared Poston.

Flynn also told Sykes, "They (The Journal Sentinel) are doing everything they can to misrepresent the work of this police department to its community."

Poston defended the paper's investigation.  "We want to get to the bottom of what's happening," said Poston.  "We found crimes were misreported, how it's happening, why it's happening and we will continue to report on it."

Poston said he plans to "aggressively report" on this investigation.

Milwaukee police are conducting an internal audit of their crime stats.

The Milwaukee Common Council sent the proposal of a city audit of MPD crime stats to the safety commission Tuesday for more details.