If statistics are reported inaccurately to the FBI, it could jeopardize BRPD’s future federal funding.
Despite 2021 coming in as the deadliest year for Baton Rouge, the latest Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) released by the FBI shows a decrease in homicides compared 2020.
The FBI compiles its list of yearly crime based on what each agency reports to the feds. In this case, the Baton Rouge Police Dept. supplied the FBI with the data.
According to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark, there were 170 homicides in 2021 in all of the parish. Of those, 122 homicides were within the city limits of Baton Rouge, including seven justified and four negligent homicides.
However, the FBI’s total number of homicides within Baton Rouge in all 2021 is 88, meaning an underreporting but 38.6% when compared to the original number of 122 homicides.
This does not necessarily mean BRPD purposely underreported the numbers. After speaking with various sources with direct knowledge on the subject, it appears the problem could come down to both system error as well as human error.
Up till January 2021, the Baton Rouge Police Dept. had a different system to record crime data. It’s also why EBR’s Open Data website no longer has any crime data for the public to view after 2020.
“UCR before 2020 was done manually in-house and submitted in a finished format,” said former BRPD statistician Phillip Deprato. “That finished report was seen and approved by the statistician and the Chief before it was submitted to the FBI.”
Now though, under the new system, it’s electronic and based upon a crime code, or “charge code.” That means each offense has a specific code, such as a aggravated assaults or burglaries, so the code alone lets a person or a computer system know to tally all the same codes as the number of incidents. Homicides and non-fatal shootings are still tracked by hand as well.
Prior to the new system though, Deprato said he too relied on the coding for his analysis. Deprato said in his 15 years as the BRPD statistician, he remembers having to track down officers or their supervisors because they did not write in the code for the crime, which is where the human error comes into play.
“The officers, supervisors and detectives were trained that an offense report with the proper code needed to be written as soon as possible after the crime. It was the officer’s job to enter the proper code for the report and the officer’s supervisor’s job was to ensure there was a code on the report and that the other information on the report for complete and accurate,” said Deprato.
Now though, several BRPD officers have made it very clear that morale is very low. Officers are terrified to do their jobs in fear of an internal affairs investigation being launched as a way to threaten the officer’s job. It could potentially be the reason the checks and balances are not happening on the reports.
Under the new system, the coding gives the FBI the information they need and the chief does not get to see the final results until the FBI releases their final UCR numbers, which was on Oct. 5th, 2022.
Sources said the BRPD administration is aware there are issues with the new system and allegedly are in the process of correcting them. It’s unknown if BRPD is aware the homicides are underreported or if they have self-reported the error to the FBI as of yet.
“If you had a difference of more than 10%, the FBI would send you back a report asking, ‘Did you really mean to send this value?’ and you were expected to respond ‘yes’ or ‘oops, it was an error’,” said Deprato.
Worst case scenario, inaccurate reporting of numbers, be it system or human error, could cost BRPD future federal grant dollars.
“Because no system of audits exists under this new system, a failure to properly code reports will go undetected for a long time. Responsibility for establishing audit system rests with departmental management,” said Deprato.