O'Malley says audits showed concern over rape stats, but apparent problems accelerated
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III have acted swiftly to try to fix apparent problems with how the city police department investigates rapes, with Bealefeld in particular apologizing and saying his focus on guns and shootings took his eye off the ball of what was going on in the agency's sex offense unit. Bealefeld has been commissioner since 2007, and before that was chief of detectives in 2006.
But whatever problems exist appear to have first surfaced in 2003, when people inside the police department voiced concerns and an audit was undertaken that found rapes had been miscounted. That audit didn't seem to take, as the number and percentage of cases deemed "unfounded" by detectives soared to the highest in the country, and more 911 calls began getting left on the street. Also, the agency's revised numbers aren't reflected in official FBI statistics.
I sought comment yesterday from Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was mayor from December 1999 until January 2007 and throughout his career in public office has made crime his top priority (and a top campaign plank). He lightly chastised the media last week for not reporting more enthusiastically about the city's crime declines, so I wanted to know whether - in light of The Sun's reporting on the handling of these cases - he had confidence in the 63 percent drop in rapes.
Spokesman Shaun Adamec wrote in an e-mail reply that "multiple audits during his time as mayor demonstrate his commitment to relentless follow-up and adjustment with regard to proper reporting and enforcement."
Why, then, did the problems appear to only get worse the in the years after the audit? The percentage of "unfounded" cases jumped from 12 percent in 2003 to 32 percent in 2004, and peaked at 37 percent in 2006. Meanwhile the percentage of 911 calls that did not generate a report jumped from 30 percent to 42 percent from 2003 to 2004, where it still hovers today. That's hundreds of 911 calls each year with no documentation. For about half of those non-reports, no reason was given by officers, and the tapes no longer exist to go back and review them.
Pressed further, Adamec responded: "The Governor supports the efforts of the City to address this concern. It is a concern brought to his attention as Mayor, which is why he ordered multiple audits and adjustments to protocols to address it."
He did not elaborate on what those adjustments to protocols were.
"Under the governor's leadership, with the dedication of law enforcement and cooperation of communities throughout Maryland, we've driven violent crime, property crime and total crime to their lowest rates ever recorded," Adamec said.