On February 17, 20-year law enforcement veteran Charles Cornfield, as well as five other police officers, filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Court against the the Arizona Board of Regents, former ASU Police Chief John Pickens, current Police Chief Michael Thompson, and 10 other ASU employees. Cornfield is supported by fellow officers Benjamin R. Flynn, Bernard Linser, Patrick Murphy, William J. O’Hayer, and Matthew V. Parker.
The officers claim ASU Police attempt to make the university seem more safe by misreporting crime statistics. Courthouse News reports:
“The officers claim they were ordered ‘to change crime statistics or otherwise falsify the crime statistics to make ASU appear safer, and supervisors directed employees to change crime classification to avoid the community from seeing the crime that occurred on or around the campus.’
“This ‘culture of corruption’ violates the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1990, (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f), and 34 C.F.R. 668.46), the officers say.”
The court filing also states that after the officers reported the corruption, they were investigated by internal affairs. They also allege they were harassed. The plaintiffs claim that former Police Chief Pickens suspected the officers were contributing to a local blog that details corruption in the ASU police department. In response, Pickens “singled them out for interrogations and demoted them, denied them promotions, defamed them with false reports, and/or fired them.”
Cornfield also filed a separate claim alleging he was targeted because he was older than 40. Cornfield says the department forced him into retirement “based on the harassment he felt with this incredibly dysfunctional group of people that are supposed to ‘serve and protect.’“
The officers claim the ASU Police Department is run by a clique of cronies that “discriminates against those who were felt to be threats.” The officers are seeking punitive damages for civil rights violations, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, falsification of records, and age discrimination (on behalf of plaintiff Cornfield only).
Unfortunately, the law enforcement’s practices of altering crime statistics is likely fairly common. Police officers often want to make their police departments look strong and their cities safe, so they may under-report certain crimes and statistics that make the department look bad. On the flip side, a department’s officers might attempt to paint themselves as vulnerable — and therefore in need of funding — to properly handle crimes that might not even exist. This situation becomes even more problematic in light of the fact that the FBI relies upon “self-reporting” from police departments to compile its annual report on national crime statistics.
How can the federal government accurately analyze crime statistics if the departments are improperly reporting them in the first place? It cannot. This should make every member of the public weary of official government data regarding police abuse, corruption, and violent crimes. The people are no longer able to trust the “authorities” to be transparent and accountable, so it is up to each of us to educate ourselves about the corruption that surrounds us, and then take action against in whatever ways are most appropriate to our lifestyles and needs. Together we can turn the tide of police corruption and put the power back in the hands of the people.