The FBI's UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting)
has been around for a very, very long
time.  Police departments are not
required by law to report crime using
UCR; however, most departments,
including all the major police departments
in the nation, use the UCR to report

The importance of UCR cannot be
overestimated.  Every person or
organization having any interest in crime,
i.e., personal, political, organizational,
educational, community, etc., uses or
references the information provided by

UCR is unique, because it is a relatively
simple administrative reporting system
that is compatible to incompatible parts.  
I need to explain this one.  Every state in
the nation has its own statute law and
terminology to describe criminal
offenses.  An awful lot of people,
including police officers, keep trying to
apply, compare, or intertwine the criteria
and classifications in UCR with their own
state's criminal statutes and
terminology.  This is a fool's errand.  
You'll be well ahead of the game if, even
before you become a police officer, you
come to understand that UCR crime
classifications have absolutely nothing to
do with how crimes are identified,
classified, or prosecuted under your
state's criminal code or statutes.
Since any kind of reporting system,
especially one which is so widely
misunderstood, can be manipulated and
its original purpose corrupted, a real
quality control system must be in place
to prevent corruption.  When it comes to
UCR, you, as a police officer, will be the
first, and most important, factor in
determining the quality of your
department's crime reporting system,
and the validity of its UCR classifications.  
The next most important factor will be
your sergeant who reviews and approves
your reports.

In just one police department – if every
police officer and every sergeant were
well educated in UCR classifications, and
there was no pressure from any quarter
to downgrade crime, you'd have one fine
and accurate crime reporting system.  
Okay... you can laugh at this point since
no such police department exists, ever
did, or ever will.  Every time something
gets screwed up, and it's exposed, you
always hear people wail about changing
things and ensuring accountability.  While
changes usually occur, accountability is
usually, as usual, lost in the details.

Here's what many forget.  Accountability
can only exist when real quality control is
being practiced continuously – remember,
continuously means without
interruption!  What is real quality
control?  It's people... people watching
people.  The only way to ensure your
maximum efficiency, and that of your
sergeant, is your sure understanding
that every crime report you submit will
undergo a final review process by people
trained for the singular purpose of
properly identifying and classifying the
crime you're reporting.

Let's say you join a police department
that has a final review process in place.  
You're still going to have police officers
and supervisors who will try to beat the
process.  The supervisor will set the
stage for sub-standard reporting, and
those police officers who are willing to
please will substitute their integrity with
what they view as clever deception.
Here's an example of a not so clever
deception.  An officer is dispatched to a
call for attempted burglary.  Remember,
an attempted burglary is classified as a
Part I crime while a simple destruction of
property or malicious destruction is
insignificant in the numbers game.  
Imagine yourself as the trained reviewer
who ultimately receives this officer's
report of the incident.  The report
incident is labeled as Malicious
Destruction.  The narrative portion of the
report basically states the following:

"The rear door of [address] was
damaged by person(s) unknown by
unknown means.  No entry was gained."

The first thing you'll notice about this
report is the absence of a description of
the damage to the door.  Was the
damage in the form of graffiti scratched
into or painted on the door, or was the
damage a result of an attempt to gain
entry into the building?  Since the nature
of the damage is an all important element
in classifying this incident, you return the
report to the officer requiring a detailed
description of the "damage."

Now, in this incident scenario, the officer
has obviously downgraded the crime.  
The door is metal mounted in a metal
frame.  The door knob is broken off and
numerous pry marks appear around the
lock mechanism and door frame.  While
no entry was gained, the visible and
obvious physical evidence screams
attempted burglary.

When the officer receives the returned
report, that officer has a very simple
choice to make.  Either upgrade the
incident to Attempted Burglary with a
proper description of the damage, or...
lie.  You might ask, "Why didn't the
sergeant recognize this incomplete report
and direct the officer to properly classify
the incident?"  While a competent
supervisor would, an incompetent one, or
one more interested in keeping crime
numbers low, would not.  That's why a
final review process is so important in
ensuring the integrity of a police
department's crime reporting system.

The Second Element of
Quality Control

While a final review process is the most
important quality control element for a
department's crime reporting system, an
accompanying system of call follow-up
can have great positive effect.  When a
crime is reported via 911, the CAD
(computer aided dispatch) text frequently
has a fair amount of detail in describing
the crime being reported.  Again, people
become the key element in this process.

This time, you're assigned to a unit
responsible for checking Part I crimes
reported via 911.  You're reviewing CAD
reports and comparing them with the
final police report. You're reading the
CAD report of an armed robbery.  The
911 operator obtained complete victim
information and a brief, but good,
description of the event.  The CAD's final
disposition raises a red flag when you see
that the responding officer orally coded
the call as "UNFOUNDED."

Now, the unfounded code could be
legitimate.  Perhaps the officer was
unable to locate the victim.  You have a
telephone number for the victim, and you
make contact with the victim.  The victim
tells you he reported the crime to a police
officer, and, as far as he knows, the
officer wrote a report of the crime.  You
have the victim describe the entire event
to you, and you determine that the
reported crime contains all the elements
of an armed robbery.

In this scenario, if your unit is not part of
your department's Internal Affairs
Division, you would forward this Quality
Control Incident to your IAD for further
investigation.  While this scenario has
probably caught a police officer making a
false report, catching cops screwing up is
not the primary goal of this form of
quality control.  The primary goal is
making police officers and supervisors
realize the high probably of getting
caught if they don't take their reporting
responsibilities seriously.  There's an
additional benefit to this component of
quality control.  It will definitely lighten
the work load on the first component...
the final review process.
Quality Control
"UCR crime classifications have
absolutely nothing to do with how
crimes are identified, classified, or
prosecuted under your state's
criminal code or statutes."
~ Barry M. Baker

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Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
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