Chief hits city audit Frazier criticizes limited time frame of shooting data study

Auditor defends project

A university team will review statistics from a longer period

August 07, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's police commissioner is objecting to a city comptroller's audit of his shooting statistics, calling the scope narrow and saying the months chosen for review raise questions about her objectivity.

Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, in a letter to the official supervising the city audit, said shooting reports should be analyzed for a four-year period, and not be restricted to three consecutive months in 1993 and 1996.

Frazier said that because he maintains that shootings dropped nearly 60 percent from 1993 to last year, "comparing figures using any other time frame would be meaningless if the intent of the audit is to accurately and objectively evaluate a shooting decrease in Baltimore City."

City Auditor Yovanda D. Brooks defended her agency yesterday and said she had no plans to change tactics.

"Commissioner Frazier was aware that we were looking at 1993 and 1996 from the beginning and he has not questioned us until now, when we are nearly completed with the audit," she said.

This is the latest salvo in a five-month dispute that continues to cloud the city's crime statistics. In March, Councilman Martin O'Malley accused Frazier of intentionally undercounting the number of shootings to make the city appear safer.

Comptroller Joan M. Pratt directed the city auditor to begin the audit almost immediately, but top police commanders have privately questioned it for months. Frazier has stuck to his numbers, saying in May that the "credibility of every single fTC person on this Police Department is at stake."

Last month, over the objections of Pratt, the Board of Estimates voted to pay a University of Maryland team $10,000 to perform a more comprehensive review, which Frazier supports. That review has not begun.

Brooks said the audit months were chosen based on a mandate by the City Council's Legislative Investigations Committee, chaired by O'Malley, to compare shootings in September, October and November 1993 with the same months in 1996.

Brooks said she will continue to work to complete her task by the end of the month. She said she has not responded to Frazier's July 28 letter, which was addressed to an audit supervisor, JoAnn White Burnett.

Burnett declined to comment.

"We are trying to do an independent review," Brooks said, refusing to disclose her findings. "We are just about done. But we'll never get done if people want to keep making changes."

Frazier declined to comment on the letter, which was obtained by The Sun yesterday.

Top police officials said they raised similar questions about the audit months ago that went unheeded. The latest letter raises several concerns, including an assertion that the city audit cannot be considered independent because the months chosen mirror closely the dates used by O'Malley to conclude that shootings were undercounted.

Frazier's spokesman said the commissioner supports the university review, headed by criminal justice Professor Charles Wellford.

Wellford said yesterday that he has not started his review, but that he intends to pull all police reports of nonfatal violent crimes from 1993, 1996 and 1997. He said he will analyze a random sample from each month.

O'Malley said yesterday he is confident that his accusations will prove true regardless of which reports are analyzed. He said his analysis showed that the biggest fluctuations occurred in 1993 and 1996.

The councilman said he asked the city auditors to analyze shooting reports for every other month in 1993 and 1996. "It is false to say that she is doing what I wanted her to do," he said.

Pratt was out of town and her office referred questions to Brooks.

Pub Date: 8/07/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.