WASHINGTON - Crime is an affliction that plagues all major cities.
In the District, the past three years have seen an ebb and flow of violence – with homicides skyrocketing in 2015, only to see a two-year dip, followed by another spike this year.
But a close look at DC police crime stats reveals that crimes like robberies and shootings continue to shrink in number.
One veteran DC police officer is blowing the whistle on what he calls years of corruption and crime reclassification by the department.
"If it's a burglary and someone enters the home, but nothing was taken they'll have us re-classify it as Unlawful Entry which brings the crime down from a felony to a misdemeanor,” said the officer, who talked to FOX 5 on the condition of anonymity.Felonies are reported to the FBI – the Uniform Crime Report compiles the statistics, providing a national barometer of violent crime for the record.
“What they do is, if the victim doesn't want to give up any information then they change it to ‘Injured Person to Hospital’,” the officer said.
He noted that the reclassification turns the shooting into an incident, not a crime.
A search of DC police reports for a 19-month period up to April of 2018 showed that D.C. police had taken nearly 3,000 reports for ‘Injured Person to Hospital’.
Of those reports, 61 were for gunshot wounds, and only 11 of those were self-inflicted.
But the classification infers that no crime had been committed.
Yet in some cases, there are shell casings that cover the street and, in others, victims telling police they’ve been shot by someone else. But because the shooting is now listed as an incident instead of a crime, many times, the officer says, the investigation ends there.
The officer says he has been on scenes where he’s been told to reclassify such incidents.
“Yes, I've been on the scene I know what it is, they say no we're going to make it this. And you know we're looking at each other like wow and we’re like ‘okay’,” he said. “There's no need to get discipline over that so we just go ahead and re-classify.”
D.C. police brass is often referred to as “white shirts.” And their many duties include the Summer Crime Prevention Initiative – which has been around since 2010.
The SCI is an effort to reduce the spike in summertime crime within the District’s most violent neighborhoods.
Sources say SCIs are considered a competition.
Multiple “white shirt” sources turned down opportunities for an on-camera interview for fear of retaliation.
Records from 2013 through 2017 show that captains who achieved the lowest crime reduction were swiftly promoted through the ranks.
2018 data from D.C.’s Department of Human Resources shows at a minimum, a promotion from captain to inspector or commander could mean a raise of $12,000 or $32,000 a year.
The officer who talked to FOX 5 said he’s been told on numerous occasions to alter a crime report that might otherwise be classified as a felony. And he says the so-called “white shirts” are under pressure to cook the numbers.
“Oh, most definitely. There's no question about that,” he said.
Some common examples of crime reclassification were:
- Assault with a dangerous weapon (gun), reclassified as injured person to hospital
- Robbery force and violence to simple assault
- Burglary to unlawful entry
- Carjackings to theft 1 (stolen auto – which is technically still a felony but classified as a property crime)
FOX 5 initially reported that D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s girlfriend was carjacked this past July, just minutes away from Barracks Row and Eastern Market in Southeast. D.C.
Officers on a private Facebook forum joked about the classification, saying that the charge would have been watered down had it happened to any other citizen.
D.C. Council Member Charles Allen says sometimes circumstances create the opportunity.
“It’s not uncommon, when there is a shooting victim that is uncooperative. I know that it is a challenge for MPD,” he said. “But from our perspective and, I think for most people, someone who is shot a crime has taken place, period.”
Allen is at the helm of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, which, among other things, has oversight of D.C. police.
Allen says he has not heard from officers that crime reclassification is an issue.
“If there are efforts to misclassify or reclassify in any way, it’s inappropriate—that’s gonna be wrong, that’s gonna be inexcusable. If there are efforts that are there or pressure or otherwise that are having people misclassify and change classifications then that’s a problem and I want to know about that. But at the end of the day the facts have to drive where the charges go,” he said.
At least one officer says it’s a stain on the department.
"Actually it's embarrassing because see my thing is we're re-classifying these crimes and we're sending out this falsehood that the District of Columbia safer than what it actually is,” he said.
D.C. police offered the following statement to FOX 5:
“The Metropolitan Police Department has not been made aware of any allegations of “illegitimate crime re-classification” to “lower crime statistics.” We would consider such an allegation to be extremely serious”