It’s always dangerous to put too much value into government statistics. Even when it comes to murders, which you would think would be difficult to hide, the numbers can be manipulated.
Matthew Yglesias writes:
The big problem with making murders disappear (apart from it being illegal and immoral) is that, compared to other crimes, it’s much more likely that you’ll be caught. For example, Patrick Walker was found injured and unresponsive in a crashed automobile, taken to a hospital where he died, then during an autopsy they found a gunshot wound in his head and a bullet casing in the back seat of the car. Owing to the fact that he was clearly shot and killed, this was filed on his death certificate as a murder. But the Chicago Police Department has classified the case as a death investigation, making it disappear from their stats.
Chicago Magazine reports:
On October 28, a pathologist ruled the death of Tiara Groves a homicide by “unspecified means.” This rare ruling means yes, somebody had killed Groves, but the pathologist couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause of death.
Given the finding of homicide—and the corroborating evidence at the crime scene—the Chicago Police Department should have counted Groves’s death as a murder. And it did. Until December 18. On that day, the police report indicates, a lieutenant overseeing the Groves case reclassified the homicide investigation as a noncriminal death investigation. In his writeup, he cited the medical examiner’s “inability to determine a cause of death.”
That lieutenant was Denis Walsh—the same cop who had played a crucial role in the alleged cover-up in the 2004 killing of David Koschman, the 21-year-old who died after being punched by a nephew of former mayor Richard M. Daley. Walsh allegedly took the Koschman file home. For years, police officials said that it was lost. After theSun-Times reported it missing, the file mysteriously reappeared.
But back to Tiara Groves. With the stroke of a computer key, she was airbrushed out of Chicago’s homicide statistics.
The change stunned officers. Current and former veteran detectives who reviewed the Groves case at Chicago’s request were just as incredulous. Says a retired high-level detective, “How can you be tied to a chair and gagged, with no clothes on, and that’s a [noncriminal] death investigation?” (He, like most of the nearly 40 police sources interviewed for this story, declined to be identified by name, citing fears of disciplinary action or other retribution.)
Was it just a coincidence, some wondered, that the reclassification occurred less than two weeks before the end of the year, when the city of Chicago’s final homicide numbers for 2013 would be tallied? “They essentially wiped away one of the murders in the city, which is crazy,” says a police insider. “But that’s the kind of shit that’s going on.”
For the case of Tiara Groves is not an isolated one. Chicago conducted a 12-month examination of the Chicago Police Department’s crime statistics going back several years, poring through public and internal police records and interviewing crime victims, criminologists, and police sources of various ranks. We identified 10 people, including Groves, who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents—all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons.