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Researcher to review how APD collects crime data

Albuquerque Police Department officers investigate after an 8-year-old girl was shot and critically injured in Northeast Albuquerque on Sunday evening. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the Dr. Peter Winograd who is conducting this study is the Peter Winograd who established the Center for Education Policy Research at the University of New Mexico.

After a revelation that the city had released flawed crime statistics over the summer that dramatically overstated improvements, the Mayor’s Office said Friday that it will hire a researcher to oversee an independent review of the Police Department’s data systems.

The review will be overseen by Peter Winograd, a retired professor with the University of New Mexico, who established the Center for Education Policy Research at UNM and has previously conducted studies for the city on crime rates. He also assisted in analyzing data and redesigning APD’s use-of-force reporting and accountability processes to comply with a reform effort mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman, said Winograd’s contract and pay are being negotiated. It’s unclear how long the review will take. The city decided to hire him this week.

Winograd could not be reached Friday.

Last week, the city acknowledged to the Journal that midyear crime data the city released in July – comparing the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2018 – was missing thousands of incidents. For instance, the city initially said commercial burglary and aggravated assault had decreased 27% and 33%, respectively, but later said the declines were 3% and 7.5%.

In response to questions at the City Council meeting on Monday, city Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said officials will review the past two years of data released quarterly under Mayor Tim Keller’s administration.

Deputy Chief J.J. Griego, who oversees the Records Division, said Winograd’s review will be broader.

“He’s going to be looking at the whole process,” Griego said in an interview Friday. “As far as a review of past years, I think that is probably in order to ensure that everybody knows we’re being transparent and that there are no issues in the past that may raise its head later.”

He said the hope is the review will increase both the ability of officers to fight crime and the public’s trust in the department’s statistics.

“I think essentially for us to fight crime we have to ensure that we have correct data and current data,” Griego said. “Internally we have a process for addressing these issues and looking up that information. Externally we want to make sure that data is clean before we release it and I also think that having this review will give the public more confidence in what we’re producing.”

The review comes on the heels of the mayor’s announcement Monday that the city is planning to ask the Legislature for $20 million – $13 million of which will go toward the computer-aided dispatch and records management systems.

“We want to take a look at everything before we move forward with any significant technology purchases or process changes with the actual data production,” Griego said.

Councilor Pat Davis said he hasn’t heard much about the specifics of what the review will cover but he’s pleased the administration is going forward with it.

“I think the response of the administration to get a process started quickly does at least acknowledge that they see this as a serious issue and they see that we do need real data this quickly,” he said.

In 2016, the city hired Winograd to analyze rising crime numbers, and his study concluded the high rates correlated directly with the reduction in the population at the county jail, due largely to changes within the criminal justice system.

The study’s conclusions were questioned by other researchers, lawyers and judges when it was presented to them.

Gallegos said the review Winograd will be doing now aligns more closely with the work he did analyzing the department’s accountability measures under the reform effort.

“That gets more to what we’re trying to figure out here – not causes of crime and that sort of thing, but how does this flow and how do we get accurate information?” Gallegos said.

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