After reading Dan Rodricks’ column on Thiru Vignarajah’s analysis of the Baltimore Police Department’s reporting guidelines (”A data dive on Baltimore homicides shows the need to stop retaliatory violence,” March 9), it’s clear that the police department needs to reform its reporting to give a more accurate account of successes and failures. As it is, the BPD’s current standards allow officials to manipulate the data and lead to a series of counterintuitive and illogical results.
Counting situations where suspected murderers are themselves murdered as “clearances” leads to the illogical situation where the department can increase its clearance rate by encouraging more killing, provided the right people are murdered.
For example, if Baltimore were to experience 50 murders in the first half of 2021, and in the second half of the year those 50 killers were themselves killed by a new set of murderers, the BPD could report a clearance rate of 50% without solving a single murder. This illogical result is allowed by the Baltimore Police Department’s current policies on reporting cases that are “cleared by exceptional means.”
Additionally, the department can artificially boost its numbers by solving cases from prior years. A detective could solve a cold case from 1955 and increase the BPD’s clearance rate in 2021. Taken to its logical conclusion, police could theoretically have a clearance rate above 100% without solving a single killing committed in 2021 if the department were to solve enough old cases.
Baltimoreans deserve better. We deserve a police department that is honest about how well its officers are doing their job, not one that manipulates statistics to make themselves look good.
Chris Nutt, Baltimore
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