Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CAN U FEEL IT?: Stats Out, "Feedback" In

Yesterday's about our police department's "meaningless" crime stats is a good read. 19th District Commander Elias Voulgaris raises some eyebrows within the department and wins some karma chips from us for even allowing his brain to generate a thought such as this:
"You'll notice I didn't bring up stats," he said at a recent community policing meeting." No one believes the stats. The biggest barometer [of success] is feedback."
Of course, the idea that "feedback" is the best way to measure successful crime fighting is ridonkulous. The best way to measure successful crime fighting is apples-to-apples comparisons of non-manipulated crime statistics, something our police department forgot how to produce long ago.

Feedback cannot be measured. The idea that success should be measured by how it seems people are feeling about crime reminds us of a word coined on the very first Colbert Report: Truthiness.
We're not talking about truth, we're talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist.
The long-running police blog, Second City Cop, offers some choice thoughts on the DNAinfo story today:
Perception is part of the key to people "feeling safe." The other part is actually being safe, having a visible patrol presence, being seen making arrests, performing traffic stops, and interacting with the public. That isn't happening in most "safe" neighborhoods because the manpower has been stripped (or retired without replacement) from those areas. 
Add in a massive reclassification of crime, increased response times to discourage reporting of crime, making the 3-1-1 (Alternate Response) a nightmare to navigate through and you have all the makings of betraying trust with the community when they can see the uptick in crimes with their own eyes and they no longer believe your numbers.
That last part is suitable for framing:
betraying trust with the community when they can see the uptick in crimes with their own eyes and they no longer believe your numbers.
Second City Cop's sometimes colorful reader comments are worth perusing to get a better understanding of how far off the reservation the commander went when he threw up the white flag on statistics.

We hope he doesn't start walking back what was said. A little injection like this is just what the doctor ordered. Except for the "feedback" part, of course.


  1. Having been at that last CAPS meeting I think what happened was a change in how the meetings have been conducted. Before, the bulk of the meeting dealt with the handouts with the various statistics that frankly never made much sense. The Commander ditched that and addressed issues by topic. He acknowledged that the problems in the neighborhood were serious. There will always be people who find fault and complain, but I thought he was pretty candid, and that was a refreshing change from what we have normally been confronted by in those meetings.

  2. Props to the Commander!

    And while I do agree that feedback is not a concrete measure of the true safety of a neighborhood, I do think there is a very important point made in the DNAinfo article:

    Voulgaris' new focus on gauging success through resident feedback does have one glitch: So far, only a small group of people have been in contact with him, he said.

    Residents need to tell him about trouble areas that he needs to "beef up," he said. They need to email him the names, dates and locations of any problems or positives with an officer so that he can follow up.

    "If I leave you with anything," he said at an earlier meeting, "it's the feedback I need more than anything."

    This man truly wants to help our community, and he need all the info he can get. He wants us to reach out to him!

    To our community: Take him up on his offer and email him the things that you know and the things that you see. Feedback may not be the measure of success, but it can certainly be the means to success.

    Thank you for all you do, CWB. This blog is powerful and wonderful beyond words.

  3. Don't be surprised if he is replaced sooner, rather than later. If there's one thing that Rahm and McCarthy don't like, it's someone actually telling the truth, going against the company line.