The Dim-Post

July 14, 2014

The Western District Way

Filed under: crime,Politics — danylmc @ 2:47 pm

Via the Herald:

Former Police Minister and Papakura MP Judith Collins was told there might be a problem with how police handled statistics around the same time as police were wrongly recording incidents to make hundreds of burglaries disappear – but she didn’t investigate further.

Ms Collins, who is acting Police Minister while Anne Tolley is overseas, launched an attack on Labour police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern, calling the leaking of a report into police mistakes “politically motivated”.

A police internal investigation revealed that from 2009 to 2012, five officers in Counties Manukau had re-coded about 700 burglaries as incidents, which are not counted in crime statistics, raising questions about political pressure to keep crime figures down.

The investigation – revealed by the Herald on Sunday yesterday – found that offences should have been recorded as burglaries for 70 per cent of those incidents. Police are calling it an isolated incident, which has now led to spot audits throughout the country to ensure the integrity of statistics.

One of the reasons I think The Wire is the ‘best TV show of all time’, over say, Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, is that The Wire explained to us how our own world works. Because we’ve seen Season 3 we all know that Judith Collins would never have told the police to falsify their statistics.’ Instead she would have said, ‘The budget is tough, you’re going to have to do more with less, and your staff will be promoted based on their performance at reducing crime as measured in the statistics.’ And the district commanders are left to consider that they’re (a) supposed to get crime down, (b) they don’t have any resources to do so, but (c) they get to collect and record the metrics on which their own promotions will depend. The result is a police force in which police inclined to falsify their statistics are promoted ahead of those that deliver high quality police work.

None of which is the Minister’s fault. She never told them to make 700 burglaries disappear, although she was more than happy to issue a press release and claim all the credit when those disappearing burglaries showed up in the crime stats.

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42 Comments »

  1. Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and majors become colonels. I’ve been here before.

    Comment by mutyala — July 14, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

  2. One of the reasons I think The Wire is the ‘best TV show of all time’, over say, Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, is that The Wire explained to us how our own world works.

    The Wire was great – sharp scipts, well acted, cleverly shot. But, respectfully, are you out of your fucking mind?
    Remember that it’s a fictional show presenting you a suite of fictional characters. No matter how hard they tried to make everyone a shade of grey, there were still a clear divide between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters that just doesn’t exist as cleanly in real life.

    If you want a parable for how our (political) world works, try Game of Thrones.

    Comment by Phil — July 14, 2014 @ 5:44 pm

  3. And of course ‘she’ couldn’t have been responsible for all the same adjustments which were made by the same police during the reign of comrade Helunovich?

    Comment by Adolf Fiinkensein — July 14, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

  4. You are seriously buying into this conspiracy theory Danyl?

    Comment by Swan — July 14, 2014 @ 6:02 pm

  5. “Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear”. Exactly,

    “might be a problem with how police handled statistics.” Yep Arden & Collin in a political circle jerk.

    The real issue is if crime is recorded as only incidents and not burglaries then not investigated properly.

    Arden & Collin a couple of one party Statists drooling at the perimeter. The Walking Dead.

    Comment by Simon — July 14, 2014 @ 6:11 pm

  6. there were still a clear divide between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters that just doesn’t exist as cleanly in real life.

    Surely you’re misremembering. Politician who means well but does the wrong thing if it’ll win him more votes. Union leader so desperate to save his people’s jobs that he cuts deals with the mob. Cop who creates a fake serial killer in order to get more resources for his unit. On-and-off junkie who wouldn’t hurt a fly but ends up getting a friend killed by overdose. Drug dealers who are only in the life because it’s their only opportunity to make something of themselves, and who mainly care about looking after their friends.

    Comment by Simeon — July 14, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

  7. Or how about the ruthless, predatory monster drug lords, who also happen to donate stacks of money for neighbourhood children to have a boxing gym, or schoolbooks? Or the shotgun toting thief who kills at will, but is also the most likeable character on the show? Or the tough, sassy policewoman who enthusiastically joins in on some police brutality?

    There are no one dimensional characters there.

    Comment by alex — July 14, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

  8. The great thing Goose is it doesn’t need to be a conspiracy – just bureaucratic logic. Much like our Minister of Health telling district health boards to count hip operations rather than public health results. Poverty-related illnesses just recede as the old white folk enjoy their improved mobility.

    Comment by Sacha — July 14, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

  9. There’s nothing terribly surprising about police massaging crime statistics – I was under the impression that nobody took these figures remotely seriously anyway. Artificially lowering crime figures to boost the perception of police performance is nothing new, and it isn’t just a New Zealand problem – last year police officers in the UK told a parliamentary committee that police were deliberately avoiding investigating serious crimes to keep their regional crime figures down. In response Simon Jenkins wrote a column in the Guardian pithily titled “Police Crime Statistics are Meaningless. Ban Them.” I think it’s quite relevant to the NZ situation and worth a read: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/21/police-crime-figures-meaningless-ban-them

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — July 14, 2014 @ 6:40 pm

  10. I thought the same thing when I read the article:

    Roland ‘Prezbo’ Pryzbylewski: Juking the stats.
    Grace Sampson: Excuse me?
    Roland ‘Prezbo’ Pryzbylewski: Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and majors become colonels. I’ve been here before.
    Grace Sampson: Wherever you go, there you are.

    Comment by J Mex — July 14, 2014 @ 6:58 pm

  11. An awful lot of crime stats have blurry boundaries for the categories of acts they describe and volumes can expand and contract depending on the way policy is interpreted or tweaked. Some have hard boundaries – in custody/not in custody, victim dead/victim alive – but the rest have always been amenable to management for good and for bad reasons. Back in the day it was common for the authorities to manage prison capacity by not having people go to jail if there was no room at the inn, when you appoint more police and don’t change their operating parameters recorded crime naturally rises and so on. The Baltimore portrayed so wonderfully in The Wire illuminates a system in which the data generation and management systems used to manage and reduce crime to such great effect in other cities in the US became captured by a dysfunctional political system and were used to manage not crime but political behaviour. I don’t think Police Ministers in NZ of whatever party have that ability.

    Comment by Tinakori — July 14, 2014 @ 7:35 pm

  12. Great title for the post though

    Comment by Tinakori — July 14, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

  13. You underestimate the desire of senior managers to please..

    Comment by Sacha — July 14, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

  14. Can’t help wondering how much of this stuff has been going on in the health and welfare sectors
    A.

    Comment by Antoine — July 14, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

  15. But, but John Roughan says that Bill English told him that the way he fixed our economy was to give our public servants clear numeric targets to report on. And he asked the hard questions when he wrote his biography of John Key. Right? http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11292074

    Comment by Amy — July 14, 2014 @ 8:34 pm

  16. “Much like our Minister of Health telling district health boards to count hip operations rather than public health results. ”

    It’s not like that at all. Your example is about setting targets for people, and those people prioritise the measured targets at the expense of something else. Falsifying data on the other hand is utterly unethical. It’s like a client asking an engineer for a cheap building, and the engineer deciding to cut corners on the building regulations. One doesn’t follow the other unless someone is unethical.

    Comment by Swan — July 14, 2014 @ 8:53 pm

  17. “There are no one dimensional characters (in the Wire)”.

    Maurice Levy is the exception- he’s a steretypical shyster lawyer (although admittedly a well-written one). But it’s true that all the principal characters have strengths as large as their flaws- such as Pryzbylewski, who was a robust and ccertainly onscientous details man as a desk cop, but an absolute incompetent hothead as a field officer (whose impulsiveness proves fatal) and eventually finds his footing as a sincere and competent teacher. Even Cedric Daniels, who is supposedly the most morally upright policeman in the series, is clearly trying to make amends for his corrupt past (hinted at, but never made explicit as to what he actually did.).

    That said, I can see where Phil is coming from in comment #2- “The Wire” deals in larger-than-life types, albeit ones which often have some basis in reality (Many of the characters were based on people Simon encountered during his time as a police reporter at the Baltimore Sun). But that’s necessary- you need to magnify people’s strengths and weaknesses for good drama.

    However, the show is incredibly accurate in terms of its depiction of civic bureaucracy- more so than say, the West Wing, or the bloated, US version of House of Cards. The Wire was able to make the connections between people and process, and the wider world. The WW and the US version of House of Cards became obsessed with minutiae, and were unable to see the wood for the trees.

    Comment by Matthew Littlewood — July 14, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

  18. “One of the reasons I think The Wire is the ‘best TV show of all time’, over say, Breaking Bad or The Sopranos…”

    Quoted for humour.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — July 14, 2014 @ 11:23 pm

  19. There’s notihing ethical about ignoring your profession’s standards cos the boss says so, whether it’s engineering or health.

    Comment by Sacha — July 15, 2014 @ 7:03 am

  20. You are seriously buying into this conspiracy theory Danyl?

    It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a depiction of everyday life in management. In any case, if this isn’t what’s been happening, we need some other explanation for a sudden, sharp and continuing fall in crime stats from not long after the current government took office in 2008 – so far, no plausible alternative explanation has presented itself.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — July 15, 2014 @ 7:21 am

  21. I wonder how long it will be before we start to see schools doing similar things regarding National Standards targets.

    Comment by alex — July 15, 2014 @ 7:48 am

  22. Juking the stats is bad, but at least New Zealand doesn’t use any Hamsterdams to assist that.

    I wonder how long it will be before we start to see schools doing similar things regarding National Standards targets.
    — Some schools already are, but it’s not to make the Government look good: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/9806867/School-caught-faking-national-standards

    Comment by Auto_Immune — July 15, 2014 @ 9:07 am

  23. ” it’s a depiction of everyday life in management”

    It’s unethical behaviour. Neither you nor I know widespread unethical behaviour is among management. Danyls point is there was a nudge and a wink -it was a deliberate act by ministers – ie a conspiracy. If it isn’t, then what exactly is the point? Humans are shitty so we need armies of auditors to constantly root the bad eggs out of our public service? Might be bad for morale.

    Comment by Swan — July 15, 2014 @ 9:50 am

  24. I’ve witnessed a fair bit of unethical behaviour by management. I get the impression that alot of the time they don’t even know what they are doing is wrong.

    Comment by Rob — July 15, 2014 @ 10:17 am

  25. And have you called them out on it, Rob?

    Further, I would be surprised if they didn’t know what they were doing is wrong. Most organisations these days have fairy explicit guidelines wrt what is regarded as unethical behaviour. Ignorance is not generally regarded as an excuse; at least not in a well managed organisation.

    Comment by Gregor W — July 15, 2014 @ 10:58 am

  26. The massaging of numbers has been found to have occurred in one region only and account for less than 1% of burglaries in that region. Whilst that isn’t acceptable, I’m struggling to see much more than a storm in a teacup.

    Comment by Ross — July 15, 2014 @ 11:05 am

  27. It’s a bit like being 1% pregnant, Ross. At the end of the day, someone’s been fucked.

    Comment by Gregor W — July 15, 2014 @ 11:09 am

  28. “Danyls point is there was a nudge and a wink -it was a deliberate act by ministers – ie a conspiracy.”

    Look, Danyl’s seen The Wire, so he’s an expert on this. I think we should defer to his expertise in this area, just like we would defer to somebody who’d seen Orange is the New Black when discussing prisons policy.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — July 15, 2014 @ 11:23 am

  29. Much like our Minister of Health telling district health boards to count hip operations rather than public health results.

    According to almost every journalist in the country, this makes Tony Ryall the most successful Health Minister ever.

    It’s working.

    Comment by George — July 15, 2014 @ 11:57 am

  30. Juking the stats is bad, but at least New Zealand doesn’t use any Hamsterdams to assist that.

    Are you sure? I was under the impression that the Police have reduced their efforts in arrests and conviction for possession of cannabis.

    Comment by George — July 15, 2014 @ 11:59 am

  31. Phil@2 “If you want a parable for how our (political) world works, try Game of Thrones.”

    This is a good game.

    I think our (NZ) political world is more like “Meet the Feebles”.

    Comment by RJL — July 15, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

  32. @RJL
    On reflection, the correct answer to the game can only be ‘True Blood’.

    Comment by Phil — July 15, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

  33. “There’s notihing ethical about ignoring your profession’s standards cos the boss says so, whether it’s engineering or health.”

    But that isn’t implied in your comment re the health system. Is there any indication standards have been breached in the health system?

    Comment by Swan — July 15, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

  34. I was under the impression that the Police have reduced their efforts in arrests and conviction for possession of cannabis.

    That is true; though this is done more to free up police and court resources for bigger fish, not so much for the crime stats. Would anyone actually believe in NZ that less cannabis convictions = less cannabis use?

    Comment by Auto_Immune — July 15, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

  35. Much like our Minister of Health telling district health boards to count hip operations rather than public health results.

    According to almost every journalist in the country, this makes Tony Ryall the most successful Health Minister ever.

    It’s working.”

    A moment with google shows that of the six major health targets for DHBs two are pure public health goals – increased immunisation and better help for smoking cessation. The others are improved access to elective surgery, shorter waits for cancer treatment, shorter waiting times in emergency departments and better diabetes and cardiovascular services. Way to go with your high quality contributions to the discussion.

    Comment by Tinakori — July 15, 2014 @ 6:40 pm

  36. Except that the entire health system has now oriented around these targets. Because they’re the source of funding for DHBs, and how the Government is assessing itself.

    Take diabetes, the subject of one of the targets. Diabetes is an expensive and chronic disease which requires lifelong management, and which is largely preventable. It will cost us $1.8 billion annually by 2021. Yet funding for obesity prevention has been slashed by almost a third from $66m to $47m, and measures that would address and prevent the problem (by reducing sugar consumption) have been rejected completely.

    The actual target: simply to test people to see if they’ve developed diabetes.

    Comment by George — July 15, 2014 @ 10:59 pm

  37. Like the UK this Government’s too busy cultivating bankers and beer writers to give a shit.

    Comment by Lilith — July 16, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

  38. At best, the juking of burglary stats is the predictable outcome of perverse incentives. Taken to its logical extreme, you have the likes of the Kids for Cash scandal in Pennsylvania which crossed into outright kickback territory.

    Comment by DeepRed (@DeepRed6502) — July 16, 2014 @ 10:45 pm

  39. @Giest

    Stop stalking and harassing human rights activists

    Comment by Lukács — July 17, 2014 @ 2:54 am

  40. Apparently now that collins is justice minister the stats have turned into fiction there as well.

    Comment by reason — July 17, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

  41. @Phil: you’re right, it is like True Blood. Increasingly ridiculous, and full of characters who should have been written out years ago. And John Key is totally Sookie Stackhouse: everyone loves him, but it’s really not clear why.

    Comment by helenalex — July 17, 2014 @ 11:57 pm

  42. Sookie Stackhouse is almost universally disliked by viewers. She is is a character that consistently makes terrible decisions and jumps into bed with pretty much anyone that shows even the most remote interest in her. That’s basically David Cunliffe.

    Her butchering of a Southern-US accent is on par with Key’s version of Nu Zilund English.

    Comment by Phil — July 18, 2014 @ 9:27 am


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