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City Hall fires back on Hummel's crime report

Here's the text of a letter sent by City Hall in response to Jim Hummel's Tuesday night report on crime stats in Providence:

February 28, 2008

 

Regent Ducas

News Director

ABC6 WLNE

10 Orms St.

Providence, RI 02904

 

 

Dear Mr. Ducas,

 

I am writing with regard to your February 26, 2008 story about Providence crime statistics as reported by Jim Hummel. I believe it displayed a serious breach of journalistic standards for broadcast news. Very serious accusations were made that undermine the integrity of the men and women of the Providence Police Department. Below are the assertions made in the story, and the reasons why they did not meet the standard.

 

1. Assertion that Providence’s drop in crime is exaggerated

 

Mr. Hummel claims to “cast doubt” that crime is down 30% since 2002 in Providence, but never presented evidence to the contrary. The reporting did not dispute that there were 4,218 fewer incidents of Part I crime in 2007 than in 2002. It only addressed the classification of crime.

 

Mr. Hummel knew, but deliberately chose to leave out, statistics that show a steep drop in crime where a change in classification is impossible – the murder rate and the victim of gunshot rate. From 2002 to 2007, murders dropped 39%. Gunshot victims dropped 45%. 

 

2. Assertion that the Providence Police “downgrade” crimes

 

The Providence Police are devoted to total accuracy in crime reporting and welcome any fair and thoughtful review. Accurate crime data is one of the chief reasons behind the success of the Providence Police. It determines crime prevention strategies. It is critical to knowing exactly where, when, and what kinds of crime have taken place.

 

Mr. Hummel made an insinuation about a department-wide conspiracy based on three incidents (there were roughly 9,821 Part I crime incidents last year). The allegations came from anonymous sources and one former union president, who had made discredited claims against Department leadership in the past.

 

Mr. Hummel knew, but deliberately chose to leave out of the story, the system for reviewing crime classification. Command staff and Lieutenants review classifications in a setting that includes community partners and law enforcement partners.

 

Regularly present at these meetings are the U.S. Attorney, members of the Office of the Attorney General, and FBI officers. Instead Mr. Hummel reported a second-hand rumor about a meeting, and did not report that the PPD contradicts the account.

 

Mr. Hummel knew, but deliberately chose to leave out, dozens of crimes that were “upgraded” in the process of review, including specific cases to which he was given access.

 

Mr. Hummel knew, but deliberately chose to leave out of the story, that after a similar allegation made by two members of the Providence City Council, the PPD asked for a review by the State Police. The State Police review found the data to be accurate.

 

Mr. Hummel knew, but deliberately chose to leave out, the broader context of the three incident reports used in his story.

• One incident involved two well-acquainted individuals who were known drug users and were arguing over $5 worth of crack cocaine. One had a closed pocket knife but was not holding it in a threatening manner. When the officer broke up the altercation, both asked the officer not to press charges. The officer decided to make an arrest under disorderly conduct charges. Mr. Hummel claims that this should have been classified as assault with a dangerous weapon.

• Another incident involved an individual who offered six different versions of a story about a phone being stolen from his vehicle. It was ultimately classified as “person annoyed.” Mr. Hummel believed it should have been differently classified.

• The third incident involved two victims of an attack, who, when questioned, asked that no charges be brought. The officer pushed for a charge. It was ultimately classified as a simple assault.

 

Mr. Hummel knew, but deliberately chose to leave out, that the same sources of many of these allegations also told Mr. Hummel that they “knew about parking ticket fixing” by the Chief of Police.  The Chief presented Mr. Hummel with evidence to completely discredit the source’s allegations. Mr. Hummel still based his story on their other allegations.

 

Mr. Hummel knew, but deliberately chose to leave out, that his single on-the-record source, Robert Paniccia is the former head of the Fraternal Order of Police Union. Mr. Hummel deliberately chose to leave out that Paniccia had a highly adversarial relationship with the Department over many issues.

 

Mr. Hummel deliberately chose to leave out that Mr. Paniccia had falsely claimed that PPD leadership planted a surveillance device in a patrol office in the highly publicized “blinky light” incident.

 

I think you will agree that this story falls far short of the journalistic standards that this community expects. The subject of crime affects everyone in our community: residents, business owners, tourists and prospective investors. I hope you will take appropriate action, including a sincere, on-air apology to the men and women of the Providence Police Department.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Deborah Brayton

Chief of Staff

Office of Mayor David N. Cicilline

 

 

Cc:  Stephen Doerr, Vice President & General Manager, ABC6

      Kevin O’Brien, Owner, Global Broadcasting, LLC

      Robinson Ewert, Owner, Global Broadcasting, LLC

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