The head of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association believes that pressure to come in with ever-lower crime statistics may have played a role in the falsification of crime reports in two precincts by its commanding officer.
“Obviously here I think there might have been some pressure or internal pressure to try to keep some numbers down so this way he didn’t have to explain why crime was rising,” Nassau PBA President James Carver said Wednesday at . “Whether this was just a mistake; this seems to be a little bit more than [that].”
According to the , during the monthly review of precinct commanding officers in mid-July, the Fifth Precinct reported “a considerable reduction” in overall crime and a steep drop in grand larcenies. The review prompted an investigation into the tactics used and discovered inaccurate reporting by Inspector Thomas DePaola, with cases reclassified as lesser offenses, and in some cases “lost property.”
According to the department, the investigation revealed that there was less than a 2 percent “error” in precincts other than the Sixth Precinct “and for a very short period of time” in the Fifth Precinct. While DePaola, who has worked at the department since 1985, was inspector of the Fifth Precinct, the error rate reached 12 percent. According to the NCPD, the false reporting was done over an 18-month period of time.
“There’s really no flexibility if it’s a grand larceny compared to a petite larceny; there’s strict guidelines for penal law in how you classify that case,” Carver said. “There’s no discretion on how you classify crime. I think the people in Nassau County need to know that when they report a crime that it’s actually going to be documented, it’s going to be there for the police commissioner to evaluate.”
Grand larcenies are classified as felony crimes involving stolen property where the amount of goods is amount over $1,500 and are sentences can be for more than a year in prison. A misdemeanor or petite larceny by comparison carries a sentence of up to a year in prison.
“This is the first time that we actually have proof that there were misclassifications of reports,” Carver said. “It’s very difficult for us to know what’s being classified and how it’s being classified, we’re not the owners of the information.”
Using the county’s crime statistics system, known as Nass-Stat, officers would report crimes to a data processing center which then sends the information to a desk officer. It would then go through a series of reviews, including the commanding officers, and can be reclassified again at any level.
“There should be concern from everybody when someone in the police department fails to report the proper crime statistics,” Carver said. “If patterns and reports aren’t properly reported to the police officers who know where the crimes are happening it makes it our job out there that much more difficult.”
When asked if it would be necessary for the department to utilize an independent auditor for all its crime reports going forward he said that “at one point that may happen but internally let’s go see what the department comes up with.”
Earlier this year in an effort to save money Nassau County , consolidating eight areas into four. The Sixth Precinct was merged with the in Williston Park with the Sixth’s Manhasset-based headquarters becoming a community policing center. There has also been a , going from 2,700 members in 2008 to the current number of about 2,300.
“When someone in the department fails to properly report a crime, it gives the false impression that you don’t need as many police officers as we feel that you need,” Carver said.
As part of the investigation, the department assigned three chiefs to audit the crime reports of the districts and at least 170 reports dating back to 2011 are expected to be classified.
“I don’t know what happened here. I think what happened here is that the cases where there was no solvability – of getting anybody to solve the crime – it kinda just got lost in cyberspace, they didn’t properly classify it so it never attached to a detective,” Carver said.
DePaola’s rank has subsequently been lowered from inspector to patrol captain. Carver stated that the PBA has no standing with the decision to reduce his rank and would not be able to appeal the decision made by the commissioner.
“His reputation up to this point, he’s been a fine, dedicated officer,” Carver said of DePaola.